Wrightbus have developed the world’s first hydrogen-powered double-decker bus and have already been carrying passengers in the West Midlands. Birmingham City Council’s 20 zero-emission double deckers started to roll out in service on National Express West Midlands route 51 to Walsall via Perry Barr in mid-December.
Outside London, these are the only hydrogen buses operating in England.
They have been purchased as part of the council’s Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot, which is taking a leading role in the zero-emissions logistics market.
It is hoped this step will be the catalyst for the next generation of hydrogen buses, hydrogen production and the development of refuelling infrastructure.
Councillor Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, praised the project.
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It is estimated these 20 hydrogen buses will save 631kg of poisonous nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions per year.
It will also prevent 1,560 tonnes of carbon from going out into the atmosphere.
They can run for 300km on a single tank, with the refuelling time generally taking between seven and 10 minutes.
Drivers have to be specially trained to drive hydrogen buses because they behave differently to combustion engine-driven buses.
Bus drivers learn to preserve the fuel cell charge for as long as possible to extend how far the vehicle can go before needing refuelling.
Neil Collins, Wrightbus MD, said it was fantastic to see the buses in passenger service for the first time in Birmingham.
He said: “We’re incredibly proud of the part Wrightbus is playing in the race to Net Zero. About 70 percent of the buses we produce next year will be zero emission vehicles.
“Our Hydroliners have already prevented more than 1.3million kg of CO2 from entering the atmosphere versus the same journeys being made in diesel buses, clocking up more than 782,000 miles in the process.
“Birmingham’s Hydroliner buses will help prevent even more harmful emissions from entering the city’s air, benefiting passengers and local residents alike.”
This comes as a number of automotive manufacturers are looking at hydrogen as a realistic option for powering vehicles once the 2030 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles comes in.
The Government published its UK Hydrogen Strategy in August which outlined the plans for the use of hydrogen in transport in the future.
It announced funding worth £23million to support the Hydrogen for Transport Programme which aims to support its use specifically for transport.
Car manufacturers like Toyota and Hyundai are already investing in hydrogen as an alternative fuel with their Mirai and NEXO vehicles respectively.
Whilst there are very few hydrogen refuelling stations in the UK, it is hoped the investment from car makers and the likes of Bosch will kickstart a hydrogen revolution, similar to the mass investment into electric vehicles.
Bosch are also set to invest £800million into developing fuel cells and lorries as they look to upgrade the technology on offer in the UK.