Hydrogen buses to drive into Birmingham

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Birmingham City Council has bought 20 new hydrogen double decker buses as part of its Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot.

The buses, which are made by Wrightbus and are the world’s first zero-emission hydrogen fuel-cell double deckers, will be introduced with National Express West Midlands from April 2021.

The council has also collaborated with ITM, which will be producing and dispensing the hydrogen fuel from the new re-fuelling hub at Tyseley Energy Park.

Hydrogen buses consume four times less fuel in comparison to standard diesel buses, covering 300 miles on a single tank and with the ability to refuel within 7-10 minutes. They emit water vapour, meaning no carbon dioxide or other harmful gases are being pumped in to the air.

Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for transport and environment, Cllr Waseem Zaffar said: “I’m delighted that we will be introducing hydrogen buses to Birmingham next year. Fuel cell buses offer a practical solution for cities to decarbonise public transport and immediately improve air quality.

“It has taken us two years to get to a point where we can ensure commercial viability for this type of fuel cell technology and is great news for our city and the rest of the region.

“This pilot is a significant step towards our net zero carbon target and will provide Birmingham with a leading role in informing debate on supportive policies for zero emission public transport at a local and national level.”

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.

“These new buses will be fitted out in our top-spec Platinum range, so customers will also benefit from free Wi-Fi, USB chargers and extra legroom. Because there is no engine, they are super-quiet. And of course, all that comes out of the exhaust is water vapour.”

The development will see the start of fuel cell technology supply chains within the region and will help to support a new service and maintenance apprenticeship programme.

It 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))