The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, recently launched England’s first hydrogen double-decker buses, marking another major step towards making London’s bus fleet zero-emission. The 20 new environment-friendly buses will produce no pollution from their exhausts and join more than 500 electric buses in the core fleet that are already ‘zero-emission’.
Hydrogen used in a fuel cell is free from harmful emissions, the only by-product being water from the chemical reaction of hydrogen with oxygen from air, a process that produces electricity to power the bus. The buses will help clean up the air and improve the health of Londoners by reducing the level of harmful nitrogen oxide in the air — and passengers will benefit from smoother and quieter journeys due to fewer vibrations.
The Mayor’s green transport investment is also supporting jobs within the UK. The buses were manufactured by Wrightbus in Northern Ireland, helping to create new jobs there, while the gas cylinders were manufactured by Luxfer in Nottingham.
The hydrogen for the buses is currently being produced at Air Liquide’s plant in Runcorn, harnessing waste hydrogen as a by-product from an industrial chlor-alkali plant, and Oxford-based Ryze Hydrogen is responsible for transporting the fuel to the fuelling station.
From 2023, the hydrogen will be ‘even greener’ as it will be produced by electrolysis powered by a direct connection to an offshore windfarm. A new fuelling station, completed by the Danish engineering firm Nel Hydrogen, will top up each hydrogen fuel cell bus just once per day in as little as 5min.
In addition to around £6 million of funding from TfL (Transport for London), more than £5 million of funding has been provided by European bodies: the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking; and the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA), an executive agency of the European Commission. There was also £1 million of funding from the Office of Zero Emission Vehicles.
TfL has paved the way for cheaper hydrogen buses across the rest of the UK, having led the UK procurement within the Joint Initiative for Hydrogen Vehicles across Europe (JIVE), to buy in bulk with other UK authorities.
In total, the JIVE project seeks to deploy 139 new zero-emission fuel-cell buses and associated refuelling infrastructure throughout five European countries; it has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking.