All aboard the hydrogen bus

Hydrogen-powered buses are carrying passengers in the West Midlands for the first time.

Birmingham City ‘Councils 20 zero-emission double-deckers started to roll out in service on National Express West Midlands route 51 to Walsall via Perry Barr.

Made by Wrightbus in Northern Ireland, the buses only produces water vapour from their tailpipes and will save 631kg of nitrogen oxide being emitted per year.

1,560 tonnes of carbon will be prevented from going out into the atmosphere and once refuelled (in 7-10 minutes) the buses can run for 300km on a single tank.

Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for transport and environment, Cllr Waseem Zaffar, said: “Birmingham City Council’s zero-emission green-hydrogen bus fleet provides an innovative solution for cities that want to decarbonise public transport.

“They should immediately improve air quality and help us work towards Birmingham’s target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.”

The new buses have been purchased as part of the council’s Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot and outside London, these are the only hydrogen buses operating in England.

Managing director of National Express West Midlands, David Bradford, said: “The West Midlands already has the cheapest bus fares in England – just £4 via contactless for a daysaver; and now we are running the very greenest buses, emitting just water droplets from the exhaust pipe.

“These state-of-the-art buses are a sign of our commitment to sustainability. National Express bought our last diesel bus in 2019, and our goal is that the whole fleet will be zero-emission by 2030.”

Drivers have to be trained differently to drive hydrogen buses, due to the difference in the behaviour of combustion engine buses. Bus drivers have to learn how to preserve the fuel cell charge for as long as possible, to extend how far the vehicle can go before needing refuelling.

Birmingham’s Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot will be the catalyst for the next generation of hydrogen buses, hydrogen production and re-fuelling infrastructure development.

The project is 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) under grant agreement No 735582. The FCH JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe Research.

The council are also collaborating with ITM, who are producing and dispensing the hydrogen fuel from the new re-fuelling hub at Tyseley Energy Park.