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London launches new hydrogen bus

London launches new hydrogen bus

Following successful trials of hydrogen fuelled buses in London over the last few years, the first permanent hydrogen bus will be launched on a busy tourist route in the capital today.

The delivery of the hydrogen bus has been described as a 'stepping stone' to the introduction of widespread clean public transport across the country. The bus was designed specifically for London, and is to run on the popular RV1 route, stopping at Covent Garden, the Tower of London and the South Bank. Seven more hydrogen buses are expected to join this route by mid 2011.

A hydrogen fuel cell generates electricity that is stored in the bus's batteries – the cell uses hydrogen and oxygen to create the electricity, the only by product is water. The launch of this technology onto the streets of London coincides with the opening of the UK's largest hydrogen fuel station in east London.

The bus also generates electricity through braking, which tops the batteries up continuously. This allows the bus to travel for 18 hours without needing to refuel. This is a far larger range than buses used in any of the trials, including the EU sponsored Cleaner Urban Transport for Europe (CUTE) program in 2003.

David Edwards, a spokesperson for Transport for London commented, "These are the next generation of hydrogen fuel cell hybrid buses that were designed and developed based on the findings of our trial. We will be closely assessing the performance of these buses and the new technology they use. Should the buses prove reliable and suitable for the needs of London we could consider extending the fleet."

With the only emission of the bus being water, no nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and particulate matter are emitted – there is no impact on local air quality unlike older diesel buses that run throughout the capital. This will have a positive effect on the expensive and deadly air pollution problem in the city. If the hydrogen fuel is renewably produced, then this can almost be a truly carbon neutral transport option.

However, cost is still an issue as the technology is fairly new; research and development costs push the overall price of launching hydrogen buses up. As the technology is proven, and the environmental benefits understood, many are optimistic that cost will soon be more in line with conventional options.

Globally, many cities are beginning to adopt hydrogen fuelled buses. In 2003, Madrid was the first city to run a regular hydrogen bus; quickly followed by Hamburg, Perth and Reykjavik. Berlin aims to have 14 hydrogen buses and 40 hydrogen cars in use by 2016, and California is running the largest hydrogen project, and has built 30 hydrogen refuelling stations.

With these real world introductions of the technology, globally we will learn a great deal about the benefits of this fuel, which is likely to drive down the cost. Hydrogen is expected to be a realistic low emission transport fuel with mass market potential.


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