Hydrogen Buses: From Concept to Rollout in Birmingham
As hydrogen buses rolled out in December 2021 in the West Midlands, Hydrogen Industry Leaders highlights how the 20 buses are helping the regions environmental goals. 

From Monday 6 December 2021, Birmingham City Council’s 20 zero-emission double-deckers started to roll out in service on National Express West Midlands route 51 to Walsall via Perry Barr. Outside London, these are the only hydrogen buses operating in England.

These buses are the first hydrogen buses outside of London to operate across England and set the benchmark for the rest of the country to follow. 631kg of poisonous NOx emissions per year will be saved from hydrogen vehicles.

How do we get to a position of mass rollout?

Scalability will be the next phase after the successful rollout of the buses. Importantly, this will massively reduce transports contribution to total greenhouse gas and CO2 emissions for the West Midlands. 

The biggest questions around new modes of transport include a range of travel, time to refuel, and ease of access. These specific buses, which are made by Wrightbus, can run for 300km on a single tank of fuel and take 7-10 minutes to refuel. 

It’s a great deal for our customers – just by getting the bus, they’re saving money and saving the planet

Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, Councillor Waseem Zaffar, said: “The zero-emission green-hydrogen bus fleet provides an innovative solution for cities that want to decarbonise public transport.”

Drivers have to be specially trained to drive hydrogen buses because they behave differently to combustion engine-driven buses. Bus drivers learn to preserve the fuel cell charge for as long as possible to extend how far the vehicle can go before needing refuelling. 

Double win for passengers – Cheaper and Cleaner

Quadrant heard from Managing Director of National Express West Midlands. He said: “The West Midlands already has the cheapest bus fares in England – just £4 via contactless for a day saver; and now we are running the very greenest buses, emitting just water droplets from the exhaust pipe.”

Continuing he explained: “These state-of-the-art buses are a sign of our commitment to sustainability. National Express bought our last diesel bus in 2019, and our goal is that the whole fleet will be zero-emission by 2030.” 

So we’re working with Transport for West Midlands to get hundreds more electric and hydrogen buses on routes across Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country

Additionally, the council are collaborating with ITM, who are producing and dispensing the hydrogen fuel from the new re-fuelling hub at Tyseley Energy Park.

Birmingham’s Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot will be the catalyst for the next generation of hydrogen buses, hydrogen production and re-fuelling infrastructure development.