GVB wants to contribute to a sustainable society and reduce negative effects of its activities on the environment. Given the potential benefits of this type of propulsion (zero emission of polluting gases and less noise) it is very important that this technology be further developed and tested in real life. The GVB fleet operating in the city of Amsterdam consists of approximately 300 buses equipped with soot filters using sulphur-free diesel.
Three Citaro fuel-cell buses, made by Mercedes-Benz, were operating in Amsterdam between 2003 and 2008. The partners of GVB in this project were:
- EvoBus - fuel-cell bus provider;
- Hoek Loos - responsible for the installation and maintenance of the H2 production unit
- Nuon - green electricity provider;
- Shell Hydrogen - consultant;
- Amsterdan Environmental and Building Department - safety and environmental advisor; and
- SenterNovem - the Dutch Energy Agency.
The hydrogen is produced through electrolysis by using certified green electricity. The energy-efficiency of the on-site production unit, calculated as the energy usage relative to the lower heating value of the hydrogen produced, is between 50 and 60 per cent. The fuel cell system and nine compressed-gas bottles are located on the roof of the vehicle. Each cylinder contains 205 litres of hydrogen stored under a pressure of 350 bar. The hydrogen is used to produce the electricity for the 200kW electric motor. The range of the fuel-cell buses is about 200-250km (half the range of a diesel bus). Drivers received training on refilling, safety and use of the on-board diagnostic computer system.
From 2003 the buses drove about 47 000km each. They performed better than expected, with much less noise than diesel buses, a slightly better acceleration and very few failures. The hydrogen buses can operate half of the usual operational period (6:00 -24:00) without refilling. Given that the filling-point is not along the route, halfway through their operational period buses have to be changed. The public image of hydrogen as being a dangerous fuel has improved, not as a result of intensive campaigning but simply by kick-starting the project and taking all possible measures to prevent any accidents. Within a few days of the project start, passengers were already very interested to ride on these buses. Due to the equipment on the roof which make the hydrogen buses 40cm higher than normal buses, routes had to be chosen carefully to avoid certain underpasses.
At the moment, using fuel-cell buses is only feasible with subsidies. When (mass-produced) hybrid fuel-cell buses will become available in future years, the use of fuel-cell propulsion will be more financially feasible.