The European Commission (EC), various cities and regions in Europe, as well as private players have taken many initiatives to fast-track the deployment of hydrogen-fuelled buses in the past few years.
The key recent and ongoing EC-supported initiatives include the H2BusEurope scheme that involves the deployment of 1,000 hydrogen buses and infrastructure; JIVE and JIVE 2 projects that involve putting into operation nearly 300 fuel cell electric buses (FCEBs) in 22 cities across Europe by the early 2020s; 3Emotion, involving the deployment of 21 new FCEBs and the further use of eight existing FCEBs with the required refuelling infrastructure; and MEHRLIN, involving the installation of seven hydrogen refuelling stations (HRSs). These initiatives aim to advance the commercialisation of FCEBs through large-scale deployments, facilitate commercial viability for bus operators and demonstrate a financeable demand-led business model for HRSs. While the JIVE projects aim to achieve the maximum price of EUR625,000 for a standard fuel cell bus, H2BusEurope’s objective is to bring the 12-metre single-deck bus price below EUR375,000.
In August 2019, the EC revised the Clean Vehicles Directive, which sets binding targets for public procurements of clean buses, including hydrogen-fuelled buses, by 2025 and 2030. The directive states that 50 per cent of the minimum target for the share of clean buses has to be fulfilled by procuring zero-emission buses, including hydrogen-fuelled buses. Going forward, the revision of the Directive on Alternative Fuel Infrastructure (DAFI), which is expected in the second quarter of 2021, aims to fill the gaps in the build-up of hydrogen infrastructure and replace the system of national plans with more efficient instruments such as binding and enforceable targets. Further, on May 27, 2020, the EC strengthened its focus on developing alternative fuel infrastructure, including hydrogen technology, in its proposed recovery plan for Europe in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Several important developments have taken place in 2020. As on October 5, 2020, nearly 200 buses had been ordered under JIVE and JIVE 2 projects and 50 were in operation. Further, in October 2020, the world’s first double-decker hydrogen-fuelled buses were delivered in Aberdeen, Scotland. In August 2020, Europe’s largest hybrid fuel cell bus fleet of 35 buses and first hydrogen infrastructure for public transport were unveiled by Regionalverkehr Köln GmbH (RVK), Germany. In the same month, a contract was awarded to establish a hydrogen refuelling station (HRS) at the Connexxion bus depot in Heinenoord in the Netherlands, which will supply hydrogen to 20 buses from 2021, making it the largest refuelling station in Europe.
The setting up of hydrogen valley projects in Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom is expected to have a positive impact on the deployment of hydrogen-fuelled buses. Recently, on October 30, 2020, businesses and government bodies in the Northern Netherlands published the Northern Netherlands Hydrogen Investment Plan, which includes investments of EUR9 billion in areas such as gas infrastructure and mobility.
Hydrogen as a fuel is attractive as there are several benefits of deploying fuel cell buses, including almost no local emissions in terms of exhaust gas and reduced operating noise. In addition, the buses guarantee the required ranges and short refuelling time.
That said, there are barriers of price and energy efficiency of hydrogen-fuelled buses as compared to electric buses, which have limited their uptake so far. There is also the challenge of the hydrogen supply chain and infrastructure, which requires an overhaul. To overcome some of these challenges and bring costs down, the industry is looking to scale-up the vehicle fleet and infrastructure.
In light of these developments and opportunities in the segment, Global Mass Transit (GMT) is organising a virtual conference on Hydrogen-fuelled Buses and Infrastructure in Europe on February 18, 2021.