In the UK, Ricardo has partnered with Stagecoach North East to retrofit a diesel, double decker bus with a hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system. Ricardo is seeking to offer the hydrogen fuel cell retrofitted vehicles at around half the price of a new bus.
The aim of the next phase of the project is to secure 50% match funding investment plus customer commitment for an initial production of 150 buses that can enter service from late 2024.
The project so far was partly funded by the Department of Transport through its Hydrogen Transport Hub Demonstration competition. For the first part of this project, Ricardo and Stagecoach North East retrofitted a hydrogen fuel cell drive system into an existing double decker bus. The bus is now being put through a ten-week test and demonstration programme. From these trials, feedback and data should support the team to explore future market opportunities, both in the UK and abroad.
Ricardo points out that, in comparison to electric buses powered only by batteries hydrogen fuel cell electric buses have a longer range, short refuelling times and perhaps most important of all, little or no dependency on grid infrastructure at a time when national grids will be forced to compensate for many sectors transitioning off fossil fuels.
Ricardo has already started retrofit activities converting fossil fuelled vehicles into zero-tailpipe emission vehicles in the commercial vehicle sector. In autumn last year, Ricardo partnered up with US-American firm Lightning eMotors, a company that has greatly expanded its retrofitting activities with electric drive systems in commercial vehicles in the US.
Retrofitting with fuel cell drive systems is also being offered by Hyzon Motors in the US. Hyzon is a little further along the track having just recieved their approval from CARB (California Air Resources Board). Hyzon also believes that retrofit solutions are vital with rapid pace of decarbonisation at a time when supply chains are restricted and a vehicle chassis can take over a year to come by. Needless to say, every part of the vehicle that is reused without extra production effort also saves additional carbon emissions.
Andrew Ennever, Service Leader for hydrogen fuel cells at Ricardo, said: “The UK bus industry directly supports around 250,000 jobs, as well as thousands of others in bus manufacturing and support services. There are around 38,000 buses in service in the UK, so we’re excited by the opportunities this type of project provides, to work with operators in support of their future environmental strategies.”
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