London is committed to addressing transport-related air pollution, hence a decision to engage with hydrogen. Transport for London, the local government body tasked with responsibility for the transport system in Greater London, will introduce the world’s first hydrogen double decker buses on three London bus routes next year.
Transport for London (TfL) last week ordered 20 of these green buses – which produce no pollution from their exhausts – as part of its drive to make London’s transport zero-emission. It follows the introduction of the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone last month.
TfL is investing £12m in the new buses and the fuelling infrastructure. Wrightbus in Northern Ireland will manufacture them, creating new jobs in the region. More than £5 million of funding is being provided by European bodies and £1 million from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles.
The European funding is provided by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), and the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA), an executive agency of the European Commission.
To encourage the take-up of this trailblazing technology in other cities in the UK and Europe, TfL is leading procurement within the ‘Joint Initiative for hydrogen Vehicles across Europe’ (JIVE) project. JIVE aims to bring down the cost of the vehicles by buying in bulk with other authorities – helping put the price per bus on a par with the other cleanest fuels.
Greening transport in the capital will require using a range of clean power sources. Hydrogen buses can store more energy on board than equivalent buses, meaning they can be deployed on longer routes. They only need to be refuelled once a day for five minutes, making them much quicker to power up when compared with conventional battery-electric buses.
Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “London’s air is toxic, and it needs to change. We know air pollution is a threat to all our health, and children, the elderly and those with existing lung and heart problems are most at risk, so it’s good to see the Mayor of London tackling the issue head on. This move to cleaner public transport, alongside the introduction of the ULEZ, shows London’s leading the way in the fight to clean up the air we breathe and we look forward to seeing even more ambitious action from TfL.”
The bus network is central to Londoners breathing cleaner air. Buses are essential in reducing dependence on cars and are an efficient and affordable way of moving people round the capital’s roads.
In the paper Demystifying Air Pollution in London – full report (prepared by London Councils), road transport is identified as the main sources of NOx and PM10 in London, accounting for 50% and 53% of emissions respectively. The authors say it is “It is right therefore to have an emphasis on transport as a source of pollution in London”.
The report cites research that shows around 75 per cent of particulate matter pollution in Greater London is estimated to come from outside the city. The problem of air pollution is therefore part of a national issue. The expanded use of natural gas, particularly renewable natural gas, and hydrogen as fuels for transportation have the potential to make a major positive impact on the well-being of Londoners, on their city and far beyond.
According to NGVA Europe‘s website, “Natural gas is an immediately available alternative to oil, with lower GHG emissions than any other hydrocarbon fuel and emitting virtually none of the pollutants (particulate matter and nitrogen oxides or NOx) that increasingly contaminate the air in areas with dense traffic. Vehicles fuelled by natural gas are quieter compared to Diesel and offer a lower total cost of ownership compared to conventional fuels. The technology used in natural gas vehicles is mature and safe.”