Fuel Cell Buses: Clearing the Way for Zero Emission Transport
This session was dedicated to sharing experience with fuel cell buses from public transport operators, public transport and regional authorities
The county of Akershus in Norway set the context: transport representing 75% of the county emissions, there is a need to act now. The public transport authority in the area surrounding Oslo has ambitious targets to tackle transport emissions: all buses need to be emission free by 2028. The 10 fuel cell buses to be procured as part of the JIVE2 project will be part of the solution, and green hydrogen produced from hydropower will be used. Safety and having mature technology are key elements to take into account when considering fuel cell technologies.
In the region of Cologne, a total number of 50 fuel cell buses will be deployed shortly and operated by RVK. The average bus fleet of RVK travels 250-300 km/day which makes it very suitable for fuel cell buses given their longer range similar to diesel. 10 to 20t of by-product hydrogen are available in the region, enough to power the fleet (and many more buses!) at an affordable price. For this type of innovative technology, main challenges are related to the upfront costs or lack of knowledge or political commitments. Ways forward are to educate decision makers, remind them of their climate goals and offer fuel cell buses as one of the solutions. Other key aspects are to seek funding and showing OEMs that there is enough demand.
The city of Pau, 182,000 inhabitants in South West of France, will deploy eight 18 m fuel cell buses in its new Bus Rapid Transit route. The public transport authority has used an innovative procurement strategy, based on performance criteria, out of which the fuel cell bus option (together with the infrastructure) was selected. This bus is much more than a bus. It contributes to an extensive transformation of the public space. It is the backbone of a major urban project with the overarching goal of promoting the use of public transport over passenger cars.
Ambitious plans are in place in Groningen-Drenthe, in the Northern part of the Netherlands. This region, known for its gas extraction, will stop gas extraction by 2022 and strives to become a hydrogen hub – this includes large plans of green hydrogen production (from wind and excess hydropower), hydrogen transport, storage and use in different applications including mobility. Two fuel cell buses are in operation since 2018 and have travelled over 65,000 kms. 20 more buses are planned by end 2020. A separate tender was open for the supply of green hydrogen, which will be provided to the operator at the competitive cost of 3.5€/kg.
Take away message
Fuel cell buses offer a flexible zero emission alternative to decarbonise transport and clean cities air, that can fulfil different operational needs. More and more European cities are embracing the technology, making hydrogen suitable in different environments: presence of hydropower/strong political commitment (Akershus); cheap by-product hydrogen/front-runner operator (Cologne region), public space transformation with the deployment of a Bus Rapid Transit System with fuel cell buses (Pau); turning a whole region into a hydrogen valley, integrating fuel cell buses (Groningen-Drenthe)
“We don’t see competition between battery electric buses and fuel cell buses, the best suited vehicles will be used according to the needs”.
“We are looking at hydrogen for regional and long distance public transport. Our fuel cell buses have a range of over 300 km. On top of buses we are also investing in garbage trucks, taxis, street cleaning vehicles, and investigating the option of fuel cell trains”.
“If you are interested to deploy this type of technology, there is a lot of knowledge already available. Come and talk to experimented PTOs and project partners such as the JIVE project who will be happy to share their experience”
“Deploying fuel cell buses does require higher investment compared to other zero emission solution. however in the long run the total cost of ownership (TCO) is equivalent (after 15 years of operation) .”
Lionel Boillot, moderator:
”Fuel cell buses are in use by several operators from Norway to Italy in various conditions, and more and more cities express interest to deploy them as part of zero-emission transport solutions for their inhabitants”