Go-Ahead forges ahead with plans to launch hydrogen buses in the UK this summer

Image: Wrightbus

The business confirmed this week that it is negotiating an order for a further 34 hydrogen-powered single-decker buses from Ballymena-based Wrightbus, following an order of 20 of the vehicles placed in 2021. The first buses will be delivered this June and, once all 54 are integrated into the Go-Ahead fleet, the business will boast Europe’s largest local fleet of hydrogen buses to date.

Go-Ahead’s Crawley depot will be the base for the new buses, which will serve Metrobus routes across Sussex and Surrey including Crawley, Gatwick Airport and Horley.

Go-Ahead has also signed a 15-year hydrogen supply deal with Air Products. Air Products will deliver hydrogen to the Crawley depot in liquid form and it will be converted, on-site, into gas ready for use in the vehicles. 

The benefits of hydrogen buses include a longer range than pure electric models, rapid refuelling and zero tailpipe emissions.

However, the emissions footprint of the hydrogen over its lifecycle depends on how it is manufactured. A spokesperson for Go-Ahead told edie that Air Products will, in the first instance, supply hydrogen from a variety of sources. The spokesperson stated that the firm’s intention is for the hydrogen to “be of a standard of renewability and sustainability” to qualify for the UK Government’s  Green Bus Service Operators Grant. 

Air Products confirmed last summer that it is developing its first gigawatt-scale green hydrogen production facility as part of a partnership with ACWA Power, ThyssenKrupp and Neom, with operations scheduled to begin in 2025.

The Go-Ahead Group’s chief executive Christian Schreyer said the hydrogen supply deal, which is the company’s first, “represents a milestone” in the transition to a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035. This goal forms part of the business’s broader ambition to reach net-zero by 2045.

Schreyer said: “We’re delighted to be working with Air Products and with Wrightbus. This is an example of what can be achieved through a mixture of public and private funding, and of co-operation between different environmentally responsible partners.”

To Schreyer’s point on funding, the initial order for 20 buses from Wrightbus was partly funded with money from the UK Government and partly with money from the EY’s zero-emission bus scheme, with the remainder of the funding from Go-Ahead and from Gatwick Airport. The Airport is notably aiming to cut its operational emissions by 80% by 2030.

The UK Government has committed to setting an end date for the sale of new diesel buses and is expected to announce the agreed deadline this year. It has also pledged to support the delivery of 4,000 new zero-emission buses and related charging infrastructure by 2030. Aside from Go-Ahead, zero-emission bus sourcing targets have been set by the likes of First BusArriva, National Express and Stagecoach.

Sarah George  


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