f-cell: Hydrogen fuel cell buses

f-cell: Hydrogen fuel cell buses

Range, rapid refuelling and 1:1 replacement of conventional vehicles were advantages of hydrogen fuel cell buses emphasized in one of f-cell Stuttgart’s final sessions this afternoon.

Andreas Meyer, of WSW Wuppertaler Stadtwerke, shared his perspective of hydrogen as a solution in public transport.

WSW had been considering using alternatives to the diesel engine in bus transport for a long time and in 2014 started the programme ‘H2-W – Hydrogen Mobility for Wuppertal’.

“When we started the project we looked at both hydrogen and batteries. But we saw that we have advantages with the hydrogen applications, more flexibility and storage of the energy, available vehicles, fast refuelling like a diesel bus, and the infrastructure for hydrogen production was available,” Meyer said.

“The disadvantages of batteries include restricted storage volume and in the Wuppartaler, topographies are 1.7kWh/km necessary, therefore big batteries are necessary to realise a 250km turnaround.”

An essential requirement was that the new drive technology should not cause higher costs than the operation of the diesel fleet. Thanks to various grants and through cooperation with the AWG, this has now been achieved. Project partner AWG produces hydrogen from Wuppertal waste.

The hydrogen required for operation is produced in a particularly efficient process. In the waste-to-energy plant on Korzert, hydrogen is produced from water by electrolysis; the electricity required for this comes from waste incineration.

By investing in the production and use of hydrogen as a fuel, pollutant emissions in Wuppertal can be noticeably reduced.

The capacities on Korzert:

  • A production facility for around 400 kilograms of hydrogen per day
  • A tank for almost 450 kilograms of hydrogen
  • As well as a refuelling system for the fuel cell buses.

If necessary, the system can be expanded.


Moving across the pond to Berkeley, California, Jaimie Levin, West Coast Director for the Center for Transportation & The Environment (CTE), was the next speaker.

According to Levin, Key fuel cell projects CTE are currently working on include:

  • Conversion of class 6 trucks, diesel trucks to fuel cell, working with United Parcel Service (UPS)
  • Building prototype class 8 drayage trucks with Kenworth and Ballard
  • Working with a company on a 90 tonne marine cargo top loader that will soon deploy in the Los Angeles area
  • Working with one of the largest manufacturers of buses in North America, New Flyer, to manufacturer and deploy 12 and 18 metre fuel cell transit buses

CTE is also activity engaged in developing heavy-duty and light-duty hydrogen stations.

“What really matters here is we would all agree batteries are more efficient than fuel cells, but it’s really about operational efficiency,” Levin said.

“We have this term, the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. The goal is to satisfy end-user needs. There are three key performance objectives:

  1. Range
  2. Payload or number of passengers, so we want to minimise weight
  3. Multiple duty cycles and processing throughput to replicate our fleet operations

“In transits specifically there are three categories of planning that have to be brought into synchronisation. One is the schedule for the passengers, the other is the schedule for the buses and the third is the schedule for the drivers. And we can replicate those with fuel cell buses without adding the additional complexity of what I call a fourth dimension which is charging – where to charge, when to charge, time it takes to charge.”

Levin listed four advantages for fuel cell electric vehicles:

  • Proven range of 300 to 350 miles
  • Significant reduction in vehicle weight (can carry more passengers)
  • Rapid refuelling speeds – six to 10 minutes
  • 1:1 replacement of conventional vehicles

He also highlighted that 18 bus operators requested $20m in CEC funding support for hydrogen fuelling stations in California.


The panel’s final speaker was Sandra Bødker, of the North Denmark Region (NDR). With 11 municipalities, it is the first ‘climate region’ in Denmark and has a special focus on being first movers in green transition and solutions.

Bødker discussed the 3Emotion project, which will deploy 21 new and a further eight existing fuel cell buses with the required refuelling infrastructure.

“It is now widely acknowledged that the future of public transport buses will have to be zero emission. Fuel cell electric buses (FCEB’s – also called hydrogen buses) are one of the technologies that meet that requirement,” she said.

The project will bridge the gap between current fuel cell bus demonstration projects and larger scale deployment.

These buses will be deployed in four sites and operated by seven public transport operators located all over Europe.

Each of these sites has its own constrains for the buses, what makes them all unique and covers the entire range in which fuel cell buses can be a valuable replacement for fossil fuelled buses.

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