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TfL Orders 10 Hydrogen Buses from ISE

Transport for London (TfL) has signed a £9.65 million (US$20 million) contract with ISE for five hydrogen fuel cell buses and five hydrogen internal combustion engine buses. The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, announced that the ten new hydrogen-powered buses will join London’s bus fleet by 2010.

In February 2006, the Mayor announced the London Hydrogen Transport program, which aims to introduce 70 new hydrogen vehicles into London, 10 of which are to be buses. (Earlier post.) The contract with ISE is one of the world’s first commercial contracts for hydrogen buses. The vehicles will be operated by First on behalf of TfL.

Hydrogen is a fuel of the future as it improves air quality and does not produce the harmful emissions which are causing catastrophic climate change. London is now the first city in Europe to commit to a hydrogen bus fleet of this size, which will match traditional diesel buses in terms of performance. This represents a huge step forward from the previous hydrogen trials in the capital and is an important step towards my target of having five per cent of all public sector fleet vehicles powered by hydrogen by 2015.

—Ken Livingstone

The contract covers not only the initial cost of the vehicles themselves but also the specialist maintenance and replacement parts over a five year period after delivery. The Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform has provided a grant of £2.6 million (US$5.4 million) towards TfL’s hydrogen bus program.

ISE will work with a number of sub-contractors, including The Wright Group, a bus manufacturer based in Northern Ireland, and Ballard. The new hydrogen buses incorporate hybrid technology to allow them s to match their diesel counterparts in terms of range and operating hours.

The well-to-wheel CO2 emissions for both types of bus will be calculated after delivery, when the volume of hydrogen required to power the buses in operation has been confirmed. Reductions in carbon dioxide emissions compared to a diesel bus are expected to be 50% for the fuel cell buses and 20% for the internal combustion engine buses.

The procurement process to secure a hydrogen refuelling supplier is underway and TfL expects to have chosen a supplier on board early in 2008.

Components of the HHICE cradle. Click to enlarge.

The current ISE Hydrogen Hybrid Internal Combustion Engine (HHICE) bus powertrain combines the Ford Triton 6.8-liter V10 hydrogen engine with a Siemens 145 kW motor/generator to power dual 170 kW drive motors with rated torque of 440 Nm (324 lb-ft) each and peak torque of 900 Nm (664 lb-ft). Fuel is 58 kg of hydrogen stored at 5,000 psi.

The ISE HHICE currently uses either a 200 kW Cobasys NiMH battery pack or a 200 kW ultracapacitor bank from Maxwell.

ISE is working with Ballard as part of a consortium to provide BC Transit with up to 20 fuel cell buses in a fleet that will roll onto British Columbia roads by the end of 2009. (Earlier post.) ISE has also worked with UTC Power fuel cell systems on several fuel-cell hybrid bus projects in the past. (Earlier post.)

The London fuel cell buses will be the first to incorporate a 75 kW version of the new HD6 module in a fuel cell hybrid transit bus. This lower cost, fuel-efficient module is offered with Ballard’s 5 year or 12,000 hour warranty and is tailored for inner-city transit operation, as will be the case in London.



So that's $2,000,000 per bus average cost. Considering the fact that hydrogran ICEs are not much more expensive than regular one's, I'm betting the per-unit FCV cost is astronomical.

Clean-diesel, CNG and hybrid buses go for $300,000 - $600,000 or so, if I recall. The difference -- $1,400,000 per bus -- will buy you 200,000 gallons of diesel fuel at English prices ($7/gal with all the taxes, which I'll assume TfL actually pays). At something like 4 mpg (hybrids are capable of at least this), that's 800,000 miles of service, or probably the entire life of the bus.

So basically, you could get an entire bus plus lifetime fuel for the cost of just a bus. I know this is supposed to stimulate hydrogen research and production, so the per-unit costs go down, but can anyone say "wasteful?"


Not to mention the pollution created to make the hydrogen! Way too wasteful of funds!

Roger Pham

The $20 M for 10 buses is a small amount in consideration the experimental nature of the project. The experience to be gained will be invaluable in advancing the state of the art in pollution-free transportation. The cost has to be higher than conventional diesel buses because of considerable development cost in design and engineering, and the hydrogen-fuel components are practically hand-made in very small number, without the benefit of mass production. In time, the cost of this initial investment will be recouped on subsequent production of H2-capable buses.

Richard posted: "Not to mention the pollution created to make the hydrogen! Way too wasteful of funds!"

Richard, the article stated that: " Reductions in carbon dioxide emissions compared to a diesel bus are expected to be 50% for the fuel cell buses and 20% for the internal combustion engine buses." that is, if the H2 is made from fossil-fuel sources, these buses will still be less polluting than current technology.


I strongly doubt that these CO2 reduction numbers, if the primary energy source is a coal-fired plant; guess they assume that nuclear power plants have no emissions at all (yet again...)



If there was any reasonable chance that this technology could be made mainstream and cost-effective at some point in the medium or even distant future, you would not be seeing a patchwork of random government actors throwing bits of money at it here and there with no obvious plan. (Moreover, having moved to England temporarily, I've immediately become intensely suspicious of anything Ken Livingston does, since he is largely irrational.)

Instead, you'd see major motor manufacturers shopping around for serious financing, getting plans in place for large-scale production lines, and selling the first run of units at the final projected price -- even if at a loss -- to establish a credible market. That's more or less what Toyota did with the Prius, and what GM did with the Allison Bus Hybrid system.

Even if you needed a fleet of five buses running on standard routes in order to collect operational data, my point is that you'd see such trials sponsored by a serious manufacturer, not a lunatic local governor, if FCVs were seriously in the offing. At minimum, the manufacturer would sell the test buses to the local authority, but the price would be in the realm of reason.

Stan Peterson


Don't let reality intrude, Red Ken's careful and thoughtful use of the taxpayer provided funds is so typical of government hubris as run by our betters. He is too wise for us mere mortals, and he assumes that the taxpayer's pockets are deep and inexhaustible enough, to make any generous gesture.

Especially one that get him a headline.

John Chen

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