Is a hydrogen bus revolution coming?

As Boris Johnson announced a green revolution in transport and energy during the recent Conservative Party conference, the bus sector has already taken steps towards a hydrogen-powered future.

Birmingham City Council has purchased 20 new Wrightbus hydrogen double-deckers. The buses are the world’s first zero-emission hydrogen fuel-cell double-deckers, will be introduced with National Express West Midlands from April 2021. The operator is planning to run them on Birmingham’s Sprint route when it opens. They will be fitted out to the operator’s top specification Platinum range.

The new vehicles are part of the city’s Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot, which looks to ‘kick-start’ the hydrogen market as a viable zero-emission fuel. The project has been funded through OLEV (Office for Low Emission Vehicles), GBSLEP (Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership), Birmingham City Council and JIVE project funding from the FCH JU (European Funding from the Fuel Cell Hydrogen Joint Undertaking).

The pilot is intended to be the catalyst for the next generation of hydrogen buses, hydrogen production and re-fuelling infrastructure development. The council have also collaborated with ITM, who will be producing and dispensing the hydrogen fuel from the new re-fuelling hub at Tyseley Energy Park. Each bus is expected to save up to 79.3 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per annum.

Additionally, the Ballymena-based bus manufacturer is also unveiling what it describes as the UK’s first hydrogen bus in Aberdeen. Jo Bamford, heir to the JCB enterprise and owner of Wrightbus, is in the Scottish city to announce the news. He has been campaigning extensively for the wider use of hydrogen buses in the UK.

Notably, hydrogen buses have already been operating in Aberdeen

In addition to Aberdeen and Birmingham, hydrogen buses are also coming to London, Belfast, Kent and north-west England.

Jo Bamford, Owner and Chairman of Wrightbus, said: “We’re incredibly proud that these buses hold the title of being the world’s first zero-emission hydrogen fuel-cell double-deckers, and we’re delighted that Birmingham City Council has recognised the benefits that this technology can bring to the city.

“We have an opportunity with hydrogen-powered transport to make a huge difference to air quality.

“But this fleet of buses represents much more than Birmingham striving to reach a clean air, zero-carbon future. It represents the start of what could be a world-leading UK hydrogen economy which will bring with it multi-million-pound investments and tens of thousands of jobs.”

Tom Stables, National Express UK Managing Director, said: “National Express West Midlands announced earlier this year that our entire bus fleet will be zero-emission by 2030 and we are already operating 29 fully electric buses in Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry.

“By operating hydrogen double-deckers in service in Birmingham, we will learn which routes lend themselves to hydrogen buses and what the mix of vehicles in our fleet should be going forward.”

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