As London hosts the Zero Emission Bus Conference, BOC’s Nick Power explains why both hydrogen buses and air quality need government support.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is working to create a central London Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and wants only hydrogen or fully electric buses to be bought for the capital from 2020.

Powered by hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen buses produce zero tail pipe emissions and instead emit water vapour. They could have a huge impact on reducing carbon emissions and air pollution, hence the mayor’s focus on them and the buzz around this year’s Zero Emission Bus Conference.

How hydrogen buses are taking off

Better air quality and greener city transport systems are not new ideals. Hydrogen buses already exist in a handful of the world’s cities. And across Europe a range of hydrogen bus projects, backed by local transport authorities, are demonstrating that the buses and their hydrogen refuelling infrastructure can be successfully integrated into bus fleet operations.

The Zero Emission Bus Conference which brings industry players and transport authorities from around the globe together in London, is already in its tenth year.

Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project

Aberdeen hydrogen bus refuelling at BOC hydrogen refuelling station

BOC has been involved in one of the most successful hydrogen transport systems, the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project  It’s the largest hydrogen bus project in Europe and is run in conjunction with Aberdeen City Council which recognises the potential for increasing economic growth through encouraging new technologies.

Key to the success of the Aberdeen project has been local authority intervention – a much needed ingredient for hydrogen-powered public transport systems because their cost continues to be high.

The Aberdeen project includes the UK’s first commercial-scale hydrogen production and bus refuelling station, which powers a fleet of 10 hydrogen fuel cell buses, and a purpose-built vehicle maintenance facility.

BOC, as the largest producer and supplier of hydrogen in the UK, built, own and operate the hydrogen refuelling station which uses innovative ionic compression technology manufactured by BOC’s parent company the Linde Group.

The station has conducted over 3000 refuellings since opening in March 2015. It has an outstanding uptime record, demonstrating the technical and operational viability of hydrogen bus systems.

Why hydrogen buses need political support

Initiatives such as joint procurement strategies will help to reduce their reliance on funding support and introduce more competition between bus manufacturers.

However, these efforts must be underpinned by a robust government strategy offering support ─ financial and otherwise ─ for Ultra Low Emission buses.

Local policies must also make air quality a priority consideration for public transport provision if hydrogen bus projects are to take off.

Without such interventions – at both local and national levels – hydrogen buses could remain prohibitively expensive for some time and will not become self-supporting. And we may not get the better air quality and the reduction in carbon emissions we need.

Nick Power
Market Development Manager
Clean Fuels