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London introduces hydrogen-powered double decker buses

The 20 new buses join a core fleet of more than 500 electric buses in the UK capital and mark another step towards making the bus fleet zero-emission and cleaning up London’s toxic air.

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Wrightbus CEO, Buta Atwal (left) and Sadiq Khan introduce the hydrogen bus
Wrightbus CEO, Buta Atwal (left) and Sadiq Khan introduce the hydrogen bus

Transport for London (TfL) has announced the addition of the first ever environmentally friendly hydrogen double decker buses to its fleet.

 

The 20 new buses join a core fleet of more than 500 electric buses in the UK capital and mark another step towards making the bus fleet zero-emission and cleaning up London’s toxic air. TfL aims to make all London buses zero emission by 2030.

 

Harmful emissions

 

Hydrogen used in a fuel cell is free from harmful emissions. The only by-product is 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. TfL reports that passengers will benefit from smoother, quieter journeys due to fewer vibrations and will be able to take advantage of free-to-use USB charging points.

 

The new hydrogen fuel cell double decker buses are first being introduced on route 7 between East Acton and Oxford Circus.

 

“We have made real progress in London to clean up our air, but we still have a long way to go because toxic air pollution in our city is still leading to thousands of premature deaths every year and is stunting the growth of children’s lungs,” said Sadiq Khan, mayor of London.

 

“As part of our world-leading ongoing efforts, I’m proud to announce England’s first hydrogen double decker buses, which don’t produce any harmful emissions, will now be put into service.”

 

A new, state of the art fuelling station completed by Danish engineering firm Nel Hydrogen will top up each hydrogen fuel cell bus just once per day in as little as five minutes.

“I’m proud to announce England’s first hydrogen double decker buses, which don’t produce any harmful emissions, will now be put into service”

The mayor’s green transport investment is also helping to support jobs across the UK. The buses were manufactured by Wrightbus in Northern Ireland, helping to create new jobs, and the gas cylinders are 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. Oxford-based Ryze Hydrogen is responsible for transporting the fuel to the fuelling station. According to TfL, from 2023, the hydrogen will be even greener as it will be produced by electrolysis powered by a direct connection to an offshore windfarm.

 

TfL said it 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 across five European countries and has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, a public private partnership supporting research and development of these technologies in Europe.

 

In addition to around £6m of funding from TfL, more than £5m of funding has been provided by European bodies – by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, and the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA), an executive agency of the European Commission – as well as £1m from the Office of Zero Emission Vehicles.

“Introducing these hydrogen double decker buses to our fleet, alongside electric buses, diversifies our green bus portfolio and helps us use the right technology for the varying operational requirements of our vast network”

With sustained financial support from the Government, TfL could look to accelerate its plans for a zero-emission bus fleet from 2037 to 2030 in order to reduce carbon emissions and address the public health emergency caused by dirty air.

 

“London may have one of the cleanest bus fleets in Europe, but we need to continue to act now to tackle climate change and the city’s toxic air quality,” added Geoff Hobbs, interim director of buses, Transport for London.

 

“Introducing these hydrogen double decker buses to our fleet, alongside electric buses, diversifies our green bus portfolio and helps us use the right technology for the varying operational requirements of our vast network. This will help Londoners breathe cleaner air.”

 

As part of TfL’s wider work to make buses greener, by January 2021 all buses in its core fleet had been brought up to strict Euro VI emissions standards following a retrofitting programme. Since 2017, TfL claims it has worked to phase out polluting diesel buses and to retrofit older buses with cleaner engines.

 

Now completed, this will see harmful NOx emissions from buses fall by an average of 90 per cent. TfL has a total fleet size of around 9,000 buses.

 

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