Hydrogen fuel cell hybrid buses to hit the road in Sunderland

Two hydrogen fuel cell hybrid buses are set to hit the streets of Sunderland, UK as part of a unique R&D program that is bringing Chinese expertise to the region.

The UK regional development agency One North East has invested £314 000 (US$523 000) to sponsor the ECO2Trans hydrogen buses project, which is converting two electric Gulliver U500EUK buses into hydrogen vehicles using a fuel cell, battery and capacitor combination.

The University of Sunderland’s Institute of Automotive & Manufacturing Advanced Practice (AMAP) has joined forces with experts from locally based AVID Vehicles and Shen Li High Technology in Shanghai, China to work on the hydrogen fuel cell buses.

The ECO2Trans hydrogen fuel cell buses project will provide a rolling testbed for North East companies to develop technology. It is allowing companies, along with AMAP, to learn from international experts and develop their own solutions to the problems surrounding new low-carbon and zero-emission technology.

The AMAP team purchased two second-hand, battery-powered electric buses, which have been stripped down for new fuel cell technology to be put into the rolling chassis. The ECO2Trans project is helping AMAP to trial new energy storage devices, novel motor technology, and develop new control technology.

One North East, AMAP and Nissan are already working on the development of a hydrogen vehicle network in North East England. The AMAP team is led by Dirk Kok and Adrian Morris, who last year successfully adapted a Nissan Almera to run on hydrogen.

‘Visitors from Shen Li have helped us to understand the fuel cell operation, train us in its use, and to help mount the fuel cell in the buses,’ says AMAP researcher Dirk Kok. ‘These vehicles will act as a testbed to evaluate novel hydrogen technologies in vehicles, and will enhance the region’s status as an important automotive research and development center.’

Last week four electric Smart cars were delivered to the region by Cenex, the UK’s Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell Technologies. This six-month trial will give more than 500 drivers the chance to drive an electric vehicle for the first time. And One North East and Ineos Bio have announced a feasibility study at the latter's Seal Sands plant into the conversion of household and commercial waste into biofuel for vehicles.

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