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European project proves the viability of hydrogen fuel cell electric buses

As the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21, progresses in Paris, France, a flagship European Union-funded zero emission bus project has shown savings of over one million gallons (4m liters) of diesel fuel and demonstrated that the fuel cell bus technology is ready to underpin the decarbonization of urban centers.

Transport accounts for one quarter of all CO₂ emissions in Europe, while urban mobility represents 40% of all CO₂ emissions of road transport. Innovative public transport solutions, such as fuel cell electric buses, can play a key part in curbing emissions. Fuel cell buses use electric motors rather than traditional internal combustion engines (ICEs) for propulsion, with the fuel cell units transforming hydrogen fuel into electricity to power the motor, emitting nothing but water-vapor as a byproduct to the process.

The CHIC (Clean Hydrogen in European Cities) project started in 2010 and will run through to December 2016, involving 23 partners from eight countries. In total, 56 fuel cell electric buses have been operated within the project in daily service. The European Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) public private partnership has co-funded 26 buses and their infrastructure in: Aargau (Switzerland), Bozen (Italy), London (UK), Milan (Italy) and Oslo (Norway). In Germany, Cologne and Hamburg operate an additional fleet of 10 buses through separately funded programs, and an additional 20 buses were deployed in Whistler (Canada). On top of the 56 fuel cell buses, four hydrogen internal combustion engine (ICE) buses operated in Berlin until 2014.

So far the project’s fuel cell buses have saved over 6,000 tonnes of greenhouses gases, which amount to the annual fuel consumption of 91 diesel buses. The city partners are currently planning for the expansion of their use of the technology, while other bus trials have started and a major European program is underway, with the aim to deploy hundreds of buses by 2020. This next wave of the roll-out will significantly reduce the bus costs and ensure the technology is commercially ready to begin the process of phasing-out carbon emissions from road transport.

“We are very proud of the achievements of CHIC,” said project coordinator, Kerstin K Müller of Daimler Buses - EvoBus. “The project has proven that fuel cell buses are far from being a research project and are nearly ready for commercialization. A figure I like to mention is the sum of 400,000 hours of operation of the fuel cell system up to now, which is equivalent to 46 years of operation!”

Matthew Pencharz, London’s Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, commented, “In London we’ve prioritized transforming our buses into one of the cleanest and greenest fleets in the world. The hydrogen RV1 buses are proving hugely popular with commuters and drivers alike, and are crucial as part of our wider work to reduce emissions and improve air quality across the capital.”

December 2, 2015

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