Birmingham City Council is to add 20 hydrogen double decker buses to its fleet next spring as part of its Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot.
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 the pilot will be the catalyst for the next generation of hydrogen buses, hydrogen production and re-fuelling infrastructure development.
The council has also collaborated with ITM, who will be producing and dispensing the hydrogen fuel from a 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 into 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.
Councillor Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “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.”
Zaffar said the pilot is a “significant step” towards the council’s net zero carbon target and will position Birmingham in a leading role on informing debate on supportive policies for zero emission public transport at a local and national level.
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.
Jo Bamford, Owner and Chairman of Wrightbus said: “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 the company’s West Midlands had already announced earlier this year that its entire bus fleet will be zero-emission by 2030 and it is already operating 29 fully electric buses in Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry.
Stables said: “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.”
The pilot 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.