Hydrogen buses in Cologne: Tip-toeing through the region

In the Cologne region, buses are running on hydrogen: Fuel cells drive the passenger fleets – using a substance found in abundance in the region known for its chemicals industry. The hydrogen buses do not generate emissions and significantly reduce noise. A new level of peace and quiet for drivers, passengers and local residents.

The regional public transport provider, Regionalverkehr Köln GmbH (RVK), wants to provide emission-free transport for its passengers by 2030. The first step toward this ambitious target has already been taken: Four fleet buses now operate on hydrogen, without CO2 emissions. As a result, the public transport provider saves 220 tonnes of greenhouse gas every year. And soon it could be more. Because there is plenty of hydrogen in the region...

Engine for progress:

  • annual savings of 220 tonnes of CO2
  • reduction in noise pollution and particulate emissions
  • part of the world’s largest demo project for hydrogen buses
  • utilisation of hydrogen from regional production
  • use of specially developed hydrogen buses

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Photo: RVK

The Van Hool buses are approximately 13 metres long, have a range of 300 km and a consumption rate of 9 kg of hydrogen per 100 km. The Phileas buses are 18.5 m long, have a range of 250 km and require around 15 kg of hydrogen per 100 km.

Chemicals region with a hydrogen excess for 1,000 buses

The region of Cologne is home to many chemicals companies. Several billion cubic metres of hydrogen are accrued each year, one million of which could be available every year as a source of energy – enough to operate 1,000 buses. “We can purchase the hydrogen for our buses cheaply here and achieve positive economic efficiency regarding the fuel,” says Dr. Albrecht Möllman, Chairman of the HyCologne Network. The initiative, together with the RVK, Stadtwerke Brühl and Hurth and other stakeholders, aims to promote hydrogen as an energy source in the region of Cologne. “We want to demonstrate that hydrogen applications can be economically viable in the future.”

Less noise, particulate matter and CO2

The first two buses, acquired in 2011, were “Phileas” buses: 18 metre-long articulated buses, developed as the first of their kind by a German/Dutch research consortium under the leadership of the Dutch company Advanced Public Transportation Systems (APTS). There were only four of these vehicles worldwide, two in Cologne and two in Amsterdam. In 2014, two further hydrogen buses from the Belgian manufacturer Van Hool were added.

The four buses not only save CO2; the amount of fine particulate air pollution is also significantly reduced. As both bus types are powered by fuel cells in combination with a battery and an electric motor, the noise level is also significantly reduced. This benefits passengers, local residents and bus drivers alike.

Photo: RVK

“Our hydrogen-powered fuel cell hybrid buses are a great innovation for non-polluting public transport in our region and a milestone on the path toward a zero-emission fleet of vehicles. Together with our partners, Stadtwerke Hürth and Brühl municipal utilities, as well as HyCologne, we are making a central contribution to the protection of both man and the environment.”

Eugen Puderbach, Managing Director of Regionalverkehr Cologne GmbH

Partners and sponsors

  • Regionalverkehr Köln GmbH
  • Netzwerk HyCologne
  • Landesregierung NRW

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