Hydrogen powered buses for a sustainable future about to hit the road in Northern Ireland

L-R Energia Group Chief Executive Ian Thom,Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, Wrightbus Chairman Jo Bamford and Translink Group Chief Executive Chris Conway pictured as Belfast is set to receive the first ever hydrogen-powered double decker buses in Ireland before the end of 2020
L-R Energia Group Chief Executive Ian Thom,Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, Wrightbus Chairman Jo Bamford and Translink Group Chief Executive Chris Conway pictured as Belfast is set to receive the first ever hydrogen-powered double decker buses in Ireland before the end of 2020

Pen was put to paper this morning on a £4million contract which will see the introduction of three double decker buses powered by hydrogen later this year in the Province.

The partnership between Translink, Energia Group and Wrightbus is the first major step towards achieving zero carbon emissions from NI’s public transport by 2040.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon is shown around the latest hydrogen bus prototype by Translink Group Chief Executive Chris Conway.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon is shown around the latest hydrogen bus prototype by Translink Group Chief Executive Chris Conway.

The deal has the support of the Department of Infrastructure and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, as the private and public sectors pull together to combat climate change and improve air quality.

The contract signing took place at Translink’s Milewater Service Centre in north Belfast where Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon said decarbonising public transport must be a priority for Stormont.

She commented: “Along with other Executive colleagues I have a responsibility to this generation of young people and the next generation who will live with the consequences of the climate crisis. This means taking action now, being ambitious despite the challenges we face and working together across the government and private sector to drive the innovative solutions that will be needed.”

The Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs), the first of their kind in NI or the Republic, will use renewable hydrogen from an on-shore wind farm in north Antrim managed by the Energia Group.

Wind energy is used to power a machine known as an electrolyser which converts water into its constituent elements of hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is used to the fuel the buses where it is turned into electrical energy by a sustainable fuel cell.

The buses are fuelled with 30kg of hydrogen which allows them to travel for approximately 300kms.

Energia’s Ian Thom said: “The time taken to fuel with hydrogen is the equivalent of that to fuel with diesel as I understand it. That’s a significant advantage over an electrical vehicle that has to recharge.”

Translink’s Chris Conway said: “As the only emission from hydrogen fuel cells is water vapour, there are no air pollutants, giving us zero-emission public transport.”

The three buses will be supplied by Ballymena’s Wrightbus and are expected to be in service later this year.

Wrightbus’s Joe Bamford said the buses would be a little more expensive to begin with but would cost the same as the incumbent buses as the volume of vehicles is increased.

He added: “It’s exciting to think this operation could be upscaled to hydrogen ferries or trains. Northern Ireland can be at the forefront of something very important.”

Single deck fuel cell electric buses have been trialled in GB over recent years, both in Aberdeen and London.