Non-polluting hydrogen buses coming soon to London

The UK’s first hydrogen bus fleet will begin operating in London this month, refuelling at the country’s largest permanent hydrogen station.

The first of a planned fleet of eight buses will run from 18 December using fuel-cell technology that produces energy from hydrogen and oxygen and emits only water vapour.

The scheme will see eight buses phased into operation by the middle of next year, adding to the 100 hybrid buses already run by Transport for London (TfL). This follows a trial that ran between December 2003 and January 2007.

TfL hope the move will help improve air quality in the city as well as providing long-term benefits in terms of reduced carbon-dioxide emissions.

The buses were designed for TfL by ISE, Wrightbus and Ballard. They will run from a specially built maintenance facility that will include the UK’s largest permanent hydrogen-refuelling station to be maintained by Air Products.

Although the buses themselves will emit no carbon dioxide, the hydrogen will be produced by natural-gas reformation and transported by tanker from Rotterdam, Netherlands, which will give the fuel a carbon footprint.

Air Products was unable to provide information on how much carbon dioxide the hydrogen would be responsible for but said arrangements had been made to make the process as green as possible.

‘The hydrogen will be transported as liquid but then vaporised on site to fuel the buses, which will reduce the number of trips that have to be made from Rotterdam,’ Air Products spokesman John Blewett told The Engineer.

‘This is a first step as they trial the technology and they hope to reduce CO2 as this becomes possible, looking to renewable production in the future.’

The buses are jointly funded by TfL, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the European Union via the Clean Hydrogen in Cities (CHIC) project.

The London Hydrogen Partnership (LHP) – a committee that includes TfL, DECC, Air Products and other firms – plans to create a hydrogen network of six refuelling sites to run hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2012.

It also aims to encourage a minimum of 150 hydrogen-powered vehicles on the road in London by 2012 including 15 hydrogen-powered taxis – a project that recently won the Energy category of The Engineer’s Technology & Innovation Awards 2010.