Hydrogen powertrains continue to maintain a steady influence on the evolution of the heavy-duty sector. As the public transportation ecosystem diversifies, more brands are beginning to impact the market, with a greater emphasis on sustainability throughout vehicle manufacturing and refuelling cycles.
The EU-funded CoacHyfied project is examining whether hydrogen fuel cells can be adapted to fit internal combustion engine (ICE) chassis as a cost-effective approach to decarbonise long-distance coaches and city buses. While other similar avenues have also been explored by UK-based ULEMco, mixing hydrogen and diesel fuel to enhance the efficiency of existing ICE engines, CoacHyfied argues that “zero-emissions fuels remain the way forward.” Testing began in January 2021, with the use of multiple intercity buses between Swiss and French Alpine cities. Arriva Italia is also experimenting with hydrogen and battery electric technology in its current bus fleets, testing both types within the confines of Trieste Airport in Northern Italy.
Some companies and transport authorities regard the simultaneous development of battery electric and hydrogen as a competition between the two forms of fuel. Wrightbus, however, contends that they can co-exist. The Northern Irish bus manufacturer has quickly become an industry leader in pioneering commercial fuel cell and electric powertrain applications for Britain and mainland Europe. The company’s success has seen it deliver sustainable buses for London’s transport network and at the beginning of 2022, secure orders for 36 new hydrogen double-decker buses from the Go-Ahead group for use in Norway and Germany.
Chief Executive Jo Bamford suggests that a public transport authority’s choice to use fuel cell or electric powertrains remains dependent on the infrastructure and financial situation of the transport authorities looking to decarbonise. “In reality, you will only get mass adoption of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles when it costs the same, runs the same and is as easy to fill as a gasoline or diesel vehicle,” he tells Automotive World. “Wrightbus believes the only answer to this problem lies in the hydrogen sector.”
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