The aim of the CHIC project is to show that fuel cell electric buses can play a significant part in achieving the full decarbonisation of the European public transport sector, especially when hydrogen production is clean. At the same time they contribute to improving city environments in terms of air quality, reduced noise and passenger and driver comfort.
Twenty-six fuel cell buses are operating in five European cities - Aargau (CH), Bolzano (IT); London (UK); Milan (IT); and Oslo (NO) - funded by the FCH-JU. Ten additional fuel cell buses are currently operating in other partner cities through separately funded programs and nine hydrogen refuelling stations are in operation.
Among the reasons for cities to participate in the project is that this technology offers a long-term strategy focused on reducing fossil fuel dependency by increasing the use of local resources, producing jobs and improving economic competitiveness. The technology also offers solutions to main urban challenges (local air quality pollution; greenhouse gas and noise emissions), while the public transport provides an alternative to cars, thus contributing to reducing traffic congestion.
The cities participating in the project derive direct benefits from the demonstration buses, while helping to drive down the technology costs, reducing future deployment costs for their own fleets and those across other European cities.
The buses have demonstrated an operating range which can meet the demands of bus operators:
CityRange1Daily duty2London (UK)250-300km
Bolzano (IT)250-300km12 hoursAargau (CH)180-250km18 hoursOslo (NO)200-290kmUp to 15 hoursMilan (IT)122 kmUp to 16 hoursCologne (DE)250 kmUp to 10 hoursHamburg (DE)400km8-16 hours
Compared to previous fuel cell bus generations, there is a 50 per cent improvement in fuel economy, and the refuelling time ranges from 7 – 20 min (refuelling used to take up to an hour). It is notable that safety concerns have not been an issue throughout this project. The availability of hydrogen refuelling stations was also very high (over 98 per cent in most cases). Accompanying studies have revealed a positive attitude to hydrogen technology among those involved either directly or indirectly with the project. However, they have noted that this acceptance can and will change if expectations are not managed and/or intra-project communication breaks down.
Engagement with influential and potentially sceptical players outside the hydrogen fuel industry showed there are benefits to be gained from understanding and integrating their perspectives into the hydrogen dialogue. CHIC has developed recommendations to cities interested in deploying this technology and information is exchanged on a regular basis with follow-up fuel cell bus projects.
Some cities have encountered procurement and permitting procedure issues for the refuelling stations. The delays in procurement procedures suggest a need to improve awareness of the technology and its associated issues among decision-makers, for example, by developing common standards.
The major technological issue has been the buses’ availability, which has been below expectation so far .Bus availability is expected to rise as the component problems and the issues of immature supply chains are ironed out. Bus operators and suppliers are collaborating on a daily basis to address these issues.
The price of a fuel cell bus has decreased by 50 per cent since 2002 but still remains a major challenge. A new coalition has been created and brings together cities and regions to create a sufficient critical mass to allow the deployment of low-cost and reliable vehicles through economies of scale.
Main Photo: Joachim Müllerchen (Wikipedia Commons)
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