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London moves closer to hydrogen buses

The buses of London may be seen as iconic and historic, but they could soon be sent hurtling into a greener, modern era. The Olympic Delivery Authority has granted planning permission for a hydrogen refuelling facility that would be built in east London as part of a milestone in bringing a fleet of five hydrogen fuel cell buses into service. The buses will be run by transport operator First Group, which was granted permission for the facility that will be located at its bus garage on Temple Mills Lane, in Leyton. It is expected that the hybrid fuel cell buses will join Transport for London’s bus fleet next year operating on runs between Covent Garden and Tower Gateway. They will be refuelled and maintained at the Temple Mills Lane site with US-based ISE Corp to supply the hydrogen buses while working with Ballard and Wrightbus, which will manufacture the bodywork and Air Products, which will supply the hydrogen from its facility in Rotterdam. ISE has already established itself as one of the leading suppliers of hybrid buses around the world. Transport for London has also applied for additional funding from the European Union to increase its hydrogen bus fleet to eight buses. It is a member of the Hydrogen Bus Alliance, which sees members commit to the rapid development and commercialisation of hydrogen technology in the transport sector. At the moment there are 56 hybrid buses in London’s bus fleet and Transport for London expects every new bus entering the fleet to be a hybrid from 2012 onwards. Work will begin on the refuelling station in the New Year and should be complete by the summer.

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Paul Lucas

Filed under: Latest News, Green cars, Hydrogen fuel, Fuel Cells

2 comments

Alistair

Paul,

Could I ask you that you research further into this? I am a big supporter of hydrogen and fuel cell applications; however I am concerned that the partnership you refer to does not reflect a realistic approach to reducing carbon emissions. My understanding from your article is that the hydrogen will be shipped in from the continent, which I guess is in the form of liquid hydrogen? If this is the case most of the hydrogen will evaporate (possibly as high as 90%) on-route as it needs to be kept at -253 degrees to remain as a liquid, even then a vast amount of energy (around 30% of that in the hydrogen itself) is needed to cool the gas in the first place. If hydrogen was free then that would be fine however; I understand Air Products produce their hydrogen from natural gas reformation, splitting hydrogen molecules from the carbon chains, emitting CO2 in the process. As a PhD student in this area, I’m tempted to work out the well-to-wheels carbon emissions of these new “green” busses, but I fear the result may prove the Hydrogen busses to be the most polluting vehicles on the road, not due to the vehicles themselves, but due to the fuel supply method; there certainly are ways of producing hydrogen without carbon emissions, but this seems lost on the organisers, if this is the case, how could the Olympic Delivery Authority justify this move?

Paul Lucas

Hi Alistair...

Interesting post.

Air Products will indeed supply the hydrogen, derived from natural gas reformation, from its facility in Rotterdam. Air Products will also supply the refueling equipment as well as specialist maintenance of the equipment.

You raise a number of valid points and I'd love to hear more if you choose to investigate this issue further.

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