Hitachi Rail and Hyperdrive team up in support of plans to create a battery hub in the North East
Plans to roll out zero emission battery-powered trains on the UK rail network have taken a major step forward today, with the new Hitachi Rail and Hyperdrive Innovation have signed an exclusive agreement to develop battery packs in the North East.
The two manufacturers are now set to accelerate the creation of batteries that can be mass-produced to provide emission-free power for hundreds of battery trains across the UK.
The partnership marks an "important step" forward for the companies' vision of manufacturing batteries at Hyperdrive's HYVE facility in Sunderland, and then installing them just 20 miles away at Hitachi Rail's train-building factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.
Train manufacturers around the world are currently racing to develop zero emission models that can operate on routes that have not been electrified and are currently home to polluting diesel rolling stock, with a range of battery, hydrogen, and hybrid technologies being developed and deployed.
The UK is seen as a particularly important market given almost two-thirds of the UK's 20,000 mile rail network is not electrified and the government is committed to ambitious decarbonisation targets for both the rail sector and the economy as a whole.
Hitachi has identified its fleets of 275 trains as potential early recipients of the batteries for use in the UK and is optimistic that there is the potential to install batteries on new metro and intercity trains that will be needed in the coming years to replace ageing diesel fleets.
A recent analysis from the company estimated the potential market for Hyperdrive and Hitachi's battery technology at over 400 trains.
It also argued that a widespread adoption of battery train technology could create a market for Hyperdrive to increase its manufacturing capability up to 30,000 battery packs per year and double the number of jobs at its Sunderland factory.
"Battery trains can play a vital role in improving the air we breathe, tackling climate change and providing modern, high performing rail service - all things we know passengers want to see," said Andrew Barr, Group CEO at Hitachi Rail. "The partnership with Hyperdrive creates shovel-ready opportunity for new battery trains to be ordered now. As well as new trains, this is also a window of opportunity to cut carbon and supercharge a green recovery in the North East and across the UK."
His comments were echoed by Chris Pennison, CEO at Hyperdrive, who said the company was "delighted to bring our expertise and experience as a trusted electrification partner to a new industry, assisting an innovative organisation like Hitachi, as it modernises and decarbonises UK rail networks".
"Our partnership with Hitachi will secure major investment and jobs in the North East, reinforcing the UK's battery supply chain and keeping the country on track to reach net-zero by 2050," he added. "To date, only 42 per cent of UK railways are electrified, with British trains using 469 million litres of diesel each year, emitting over 2.4 million tonnes CO2 annually. The partnership underpins the vision that the rail industry can be a major contributor to the UK government's target of net zero emissions by 2050 and strengthens the case for home-grown innovation to be at the forefront of the UK's clean growth strategy."
The new agreement was also welcomed by Business and Industry Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, who said it was "fantastic to see two innovative companies joining forces to create good quality manufacturing jobs across the North East".
"An emission-free public transport system is vital if we're to build a stronger, greener economic recovery that spreads prosperity and opportunity across the UK," he added.
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