Hydrogen fuel cell bus
Pictured (left to right): Brian Maybin, Wrightbus Head of Advanced Technology; Nick Hill, Commercial Director Brighton and Hove and Metrobus; Patrick Warner, Head of Innovation and Strategy Brighton and Hove and Metrobus

As part of what is hoped to become the first commercial application of hydrogen fuel cell technology for buses, trials took place of a Wrightbus Streetdeck FCEV this week with Brighton and Hove and Metrobus from its Newhaven and Crawley depots.

The hydrogen fuel cell-electric Streetdeck has been demonstrated to a variety of regional stakeholders on key challenging services in the Brighton and Hove and Metrobus networks in the South of England. The trials hint at how the company believes it can deliver on an ambition to operate a zero-emission fleet of nearly 500 buses across the region by 2030.

The business case for the first 20 buses, which is currently part of a procurement process, includes support of £2.9m from the European Union’s FCH JU Jive Project, £4.3m from the UK Government’s Ultra Low Emission Bus Scheme and a contribution from Gatwick Airport toward the refuelling infrastructure which will enable the airport to drive down emissions across fleets operated on campus in future years.

The Wrightbus Streetdeck FCEV has spent the week being demonstrated to key stakeholders on the Brighton and Hove and Metrobus networks

The EU project is part of an effort to pool orders from 52 cities across the UK and Europe to start to drive pricing down. Much progress has been made during the last five years, where buses are now around half of the £1m originally required.

On why hydrogen fuel cell electric is seen as the right choice, Head of Innovation Strategy at Brighton and Hove and Metrobus, Patrick Warner, is clear – it allows the same operating range and a similar refuelling profile as the existing diesel fleet with the benefit of zero-emission travel.

Brighton and Hove Bus and Metrobus was the first UK Bus Operator to publicly set a goal to be zero-emission by 2030.

Says Mr Warner: “It’s about being as clean and responsible in our communities as we can be. After articulating our vision for hydrogen, it makes conversations that also need to be had about a variety of measures that are needed to support buses much easier, and gets people on board.

“This is not just about our own environmental performance either. We believe that our buses can act as a powerful enabling force to help other regional partners with smaller fleets switch to hydrogen at a more affordable price. Furthermore, as buses are currently only responsible for around 4% of UK roadside emissions, if we can introduce equally as ambitious priority measures that speed these super clean bus journeys up, we can create an attractive alternative to the private motor car, boost active travel take up and help improve the nation’s health and fitness.”