London launches England’s first hydrogen-powered double-decker buses

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Under the city’s efforts to electrify and decarbonise its transport system, London has launched England’s first hydrogen-powered double-decker buses.

The twenty new hydrogen-powered buses have been launched by the London city mayor Sadiq Khan to accelerate the city’s journey to zero emissions. The buses will join some 500 electric buses which are already operating in London as the city seeks to replace all of its existing buses with zero-emissions models. London has plans to accelerate its plans for a zero-emission bus fleet from 2037 to 2030. The new hydrogen fuel cell double-decker buses are first being introduced on route 7 between East Acton and Oxford Circus.

Unlike conventional energy sources such as petrol and diesel, hydrogen used in a fuel cell is free from harmful emissions and its 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 milestone is expected to help improve air quality in the city and the health of Londoners by reducing the level of harmful nitrogen oxide in the air. Passengers will benefit from smoother, quieter journeys due to fewer vibrations. For the project to be launched, Danish company Wrightbus was responsible for the manufacturing of the buses in Northern Ireland whilst Air Liquiede will produce the hydrogen for the buses in Runcorn. Ryze Hydrogen is responsible for the transportation of hydrogen whilst Nel Hydrogen developed the charging stations with the capability to refuel in five minutes. Plans are to convert the hydrogen to green from 2023 using an electrolyser to be powered by an offshore wind energy farm.

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Government agency Transport for London provided £6 million ($8.3 million) in funding for the project which was coupled with £5 million ($6.9 million) secured from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, and the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency and £1 million ($1.3 million) from the Office of Zero-Emission Vehicles.

The buses were procured through the Joint Initiative for Hydrogen Vehicles across Europe (JIVE) 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.

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.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “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. 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.”