Birmingham hydrogen bus trial gets green light

Birmingham city council is set to pilot the use of 20 hydrogen-fuelled buses in a bid to tackle nitrogen dioxide (NO2) on key bus routes within the city from March 2019.

The pilot is expected to cost £13.4 million and is in part being funded through grant contributions from organisations including the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCHJU), the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and the Local Growth Fund.

Birmingham city council will be trialling hydrogen buses on the city’s streets from 2019

Plans for the pilot were given the backing of the council’s cabinet at a meeting on Tuesday (24 October) as well as giving the authority approval to find a bus operator via an open tender process. The successful bidder will use the Transport for London Hydrogen Bus Framework to purchase the proposed vehicles, which will be delivered by March 2019.

According to the council the pilot is designed to test the potential of developing a hydrogen market to encourage the take-up of zero emission transport fuels, with the buses set to be the first hydrogen vehicles in the city.

Refuelling

Buses will be fuelled by hydrogen produced at Tyseley Energy Park, which is being developed as a low-emission refuelling hub for commercial and public sector vehicles. The Energy Park will become operational by September 2018, with the new hydrogen buses being re-fuelled there from March 2019.

Councillor Stewart Stacey, cabinet member for transport and roads, said: “Public transport plays a key role in encouraging people to leave their cars at home and choose alternative methods of travelling around the city, which in turn will help reduce both congestion on our roads and the impact of vehicle emissions on the environment.

“It therefore follows that we must look at ways to make public transport more environmentally friendly too, which is why this hydrogen bus pilot is so important. If successful, this could completely change bus travel in a way that will benefit the entire city.”

Air quality

Plans to address air pollution in Birmingham are already in motion with the city council having begun gathering data on the movement of freight to-and-from businesses in the centre of the city, as part of ongoing work to weigh up the introduction of a clean air zone.

Councillor Lisa Trickett, cabinet member for air quality, said: “Air pollution is a major public health issuing affecting us all. We are clear that every single person in Birmingham has the right to clean air.

“While we recognise that we face a significant challenge in meeting air quality compliance standards in the city, the introduction of hydrogen fuelled buses as part of this pilot is a hugely positive step forward in supporting the work we are doing towards achieving that.”