Hydrogen bus pilot hailed success so far

The first half of a two-year pilot scheme running three zero emission buses around the capital has been declared a success by Transport for London.

Powered by hydrogen fuel cells, the buses ran last year on route RV1, between Covent Garden and Tower Gateway, in a bid to find a cleaner fuel for future buses and reduce air pollution in London.

Between January and December 2004, the buses travelled over 23,000 miles, were fully operational for almost 3,400 hours, and were reported to excel in their reliability.

The London Fuel Cell bus project is part of a wider European scheme, for which hydrogen-powered buses are being run over two years in ten capital cities. Director of operations for London Buses, Mike Weston, said he considered the first year of the trial to be a great success.

“The buses have excelled in reliability and have been very popular with passengers who have appreciated the amazing environmental benefits of fuel cell technology and the quiet, smooth ride,” he stated. “This project is a positive indication that hydrogen fuel cells could offer an alternative to diesel in the future.”

Richard Tarboton, head of business unit transport energy, part of the Energy Saving Trust, said the pilot scheme was an important step towards implementing the government’s plan to have 600 low carbon buses on the road by 2012.

“The success of this trial to date demonstrates the real opportunity offered by hydrogen fuel cell technology,” he pointed out. “Using renewable hydrogen in the future, these buses will significantly lower CO2 emissions, one of the greenhouse gases attributed to climate change.”

He added that this would help to improve considerably the quality of air in London, and would also reduce oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), which are closely associated with respiratory problems.

In addition to London’s trial project, the pilot is also currently being run in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hamburg, Luxembourg, Madrid, Porto, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Reykjavik and Perth in Western Australia.

“The high cost of the hydrogen-powered buses is the main barrier at the moment,” Mr Weston concluded, “but providing the government continues to provide support for this promising technology, it could be a viable option for the future.

By Jane Kettle

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