Recently, a letter was sent to the United Kingdom’s Transport Minister lobbying in favour of hydrogen as an alternative zero emission fuel to battery electric buses. It said that those were the only two zero emission options.
The UK Government is making GBP50m available to a town or city to purchase battery electric buses in order to achieve zero emission public transport. The hydrogen lobby asked for a similar amount to be made available for a parallel project using hydrogen fuel.
It argued that hydrogen was freely available from wind farms when the national grid did not require the energy that they were producing. There is no national hydrogen infrastructure but that is not a problem with buses because they always return to the same depot each night and can be refilled there.
The lobby said that a hydrogen bus could be refuelled in a similar time to a diesel bus and that hydrogen could offer a substantial increase in range compared with electric buses. It argued that a government grant for the initial project would put the United Kingdom at the forefront of hydrogen bus development and create many skilled jobs.
All three UK bus builders can offer hydrogen fuelled double deck buses with Alexander Dennis and Optare both using fuel cells from Arcola, another British company. Wrightbus, which is now under new ownership, is likely to continue working with Ballard.
The price of fuel cells is still very high but has been coming down and there will be further reduction if and when higher volumes are supplied. Operators will worry about the potential cost of replacing fuel cells if they fail but there is now evidence that they are very reliable and capable of thousands of hours in service.
It will be very interesting to see if the Transport Minister responds to the lobby with the grant that they want.