Hydrogen buses coming to Birmingham next Spring

Mock-up of the new hydrogen buses coming to Birmingham in Spring 2021. Credit: National Express
Published: Monday, 5th October 2020

Birmingham City Council has purchased 20 new hydrogen double decker buses as part of their Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot.

The Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot looks to ‘kick-start’ the hydrogen market as a viable zero-emission fuel with the procurement and deployment of 20 hydrogen buses in Birmingham. The buses, which are made by Wrightbus and are the world's first zero-emission hydrogen fuel-cell double deckers, will be introduced with National Express West Midlands from April 2021.

It’s intended that pilot will be the catalyst for the next generation of hydrogen buses, hydrogen production and re-fuelling infrastructure development. The council have also collaborated with ITM, who will be producing and dispensing the hydrogen fuel from the new re-fuelling hub at Tyseley Energy Park.

Hydrogen buses consume four times less fuel in comparison to standard diesel buses, covering 300 miles on a single tank and with the ability to refuel within 7-10 minutes. They emit water vapour, meaning no carbon dioxide or other harmful gases are being pumped in to the air.

Hailed as another solution to tackling the city’s poor air quality and a key step towards achieving the council’s net zero carbon target, each bus is expected to save up to 79.3 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per annum.

Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, Councillor Waseem Zaffar said: “I’m delighted that we will be introducing hydrogen buses to Birmingham next year. Fuel cell buses offer a practical solution for cities to decarbonise public transport and immediately improve air quality.

“It has taken us two years to get to a point where we can ensure commercial viability for this type of fuel cell technology and is great news for our city and the rest of the region.

“This pilot is a significant step towards our net zero carbon target and will provide Birmingham with a leading role in informing debate on supportive policies for zero emission public transport at a local and national level.”

The buses are being manufactured by Wrightbus, who are also supplying vehicles to Aberdeen and London as a first in the deployment of hydrogen fuel cell double decker buses in the UK and within Europe. The buses will be operated in Birmingham by National Express, with an ambition to run them on the new Sprint route when it opens.

Jo Bamford, Owner and Chairman of Wrightbus said: “We’re incredibly proud that these buses hold the title of being the world's first zero-emission hydrogen fuel-cell double deckers, and we’re delighted that Birmingham City Council has recognised the benefits that this technology can bring to the city.

“We have an opportunity with hydrogen-powered transport to make a huge difference to air quality.

“But this fleet of buses represents much more than Birmingham striving to reach a clean air, zero-carbon future. It represents the start of what could be a world-leading UK hydrogen economy which will bring with it multi-million-pound investments and tens of thousands of jobs.”

Tom Stables, National Express UK Managing Director said: “National Express West Midlands announced earlier this year that our entire bus fleet will be zero-emission by 2030 and we are already operating 29 fully electric buses in Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry.

“By operating hydrogen double deckers in service in Birmingham, we will learn which routes lend themselves to hydrogen buses and what the mix of vehicles in our fleet should be going forward.

"These new buses will be fitted out in our top-spec Platinum range, so customers will also benefit from free Wi-Fi, USB chargers and extra legroom. Because there is no engine, they are super-quiet. And of course, all that comes out of the exhaust is water vapour."

The development will see the start of fuel cell technology supply chains within the region and will help to support a brand-new service and maintenance apprenticeship programme.

It has been funded through OLEV (Office for Low Emission Vehicles), GBSLEP (Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership), Birmingham City Council and JIVE project funding from the FCH JU (European Funding from the Fuel Cell Hydrogen Joint Undertaking) under grant agreement No 735582. The FCH JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe Research.

GBSLEP’s Deputy Chair for Delivery, Chris Loughran said: “The team at Birmingham City Council have demonstrated real determination in reaching this milestone in what has been a difficult climate.

“This will not only make an important contribution to improving air quality for those living and working in the city, but it further augments the region’s growing low carbon and energy technologies sector. The buses will make use of the low emission re-fuelling infrastructure at Tyseley Energy Park, which GBSLEP is also proud to have supported via our Local Growth Fund.

“Our investments reflect our commitment to tackling one of the largest challenges we collectively face and to growing the region’s energy sector, which has enormous potential to generate new jobs and bring investment to the area.”

Once launched, the Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot will be monitored and reviewed to analyse and ensure the ongoing commercial and operational viability of hydrogen buses, to enable a continued roll out of hydrogen fuel cell technology within bus fleets, as part of the city’s commitment to the environment and cleaner air.

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