Image: London Mayor's Office

Sadiq Khan, London’s Mayor, has introduced the Englands’s first hydrogen double decker buses, a significant step toward making the bus fleet zero-emission and cleaning up the city’s toxic air.

The 20 new ecologically friendly buses, the first of their kind in England, will emit no pollutants from their exhausts and will join the core fleet’s over 500 zero-emission electric buses. The new hydrogen fuel cell double decker buses will initially operate on route 7, which connects East Acton and Oxford Circus.

When hydrogen is used in a fuel cell, no hazardous pollutants are produced. The only byproduct is water, which is produced when hydrogen reacts with oxygen in the air, a reaction that generates electricity to power the bus. By lowering the level of hazardous nitrogen oxide in the air, the buses will help clean it and benefit the health of Londoners. Passengers will benefit from smoother, quieter travels as a result of reduced vibrations, and will be able to utilize complimentary USB charging stations.

The Mayor’s investment in green transport also benefits jobs across the UK. The buses were produced in Northern Ireland by Wrightbus, which helped create new jobs, while the gas cylinders were manufactured in Nottingham by Luxfer. Hydrogen for the buses is currently manufactured at Air Liquide’s plant in Runcorn using waste hydrogen from an industrial chlor-alkali plant. Ryze Hydrogen, based in Oxford, is in charge of transporting the fuel to the fueling station. By 2023, hydrogen production will be even more environmentally friendly, as it will be fueled by electrolysis via a direct connection to an offshore wind farm.

A new, state-of-the-art fueling station developed by the Danish engineering firm Nel Hydrogen will allow each hydrogen fuel cell bus to be topped off once daily in as little as five minutes.

Along with approximately £6 million from TfL, more than £5 million has been contributed by European bodies – the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking and the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA), a European Commission executive agency – as well as £1 million from the Office of Zero Emission Vehicles.

TfL opened the path for cheaper hydrogen buses across the rest of the UK by leading the UK procurement inside the Joint Initiative for Hydrogen Vehicles Across Europe (JIVE), a consortium of UK bodies that purchases in bulk. The JIVE project, which has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, aims to deploy 139 new zero-emission fuel cell buses and accompanying refueling infrastructure throughout five European nations.

TfL might aim to accelerate its ambitions for a zero-emission bus fleet from 2037 to 2030 with ongoing financial backing from the Government in order to decrease carbon emissions and solve the public health emergency created by polluted air.

“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 Mr Khan. “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. Our investment in these hydrogen buses is not only helping us to clean up London’s air, but is supporting jobs and local economics across the UK. This is a great demonstration of how tackling air pollution and the climate crisis and boosting economic growth is about regions working together, investing in the very latest technology. I’ve worked hard to ensure TfL’s entire core bus fleet across London now meets the ULEZ standards, and this includes 500 electric buses. Our new investment in hydrogen buses will move us even closer to our ambition of making all London buses zero-emission by 2030.”

“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” Interim Director of Buses, Transport for London, Geoff Hobbs said. “This will help Londoners breathe cleaner air. Our investment in hydrogen won’t just benefit London, either. Outside the capital, we are supporting jobs across the UK and our involvement with the industry across Europe is making cleaner fuels more affordable to cities all over Europe.”

Nedim Husomanovic

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