In a letter submitted to Transport Secretary Grant Shapp and co-signed by industry leaders, campaign groups and academics, Jacob Young MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hydrogen, called for the government to reconsider its ‘deliberate’ and ‘misjudged’ bias against hydrogen buses in its pursuit of decarbonising public transport. Signatories include energy giants Shell and Bosch, as well as the Campaign for Better Transport and local authority clean air network UK100, and it says a decision to only trial electric buses does not maximise opportunities on offer and calls for an All Hydrogen Bus Town project alongside the government’s plans for an All Electric Bus Town.
The letter calls for equal consideration to hydrogen and battery electric buses: “Whilst we support the intentions of your department’s All Electric Bus Town project, we believe the deliberate exclusion of hydrogen electric buses misses a vital opportunity to trial clean, green, UK-made technology at a significant scale. There are only two zero emission options for decarbonising the public transport sector: battery electric vehicles and hydrogen electric vehicles. Running a £50m trial of one option, whilst excluding the other seems misjudged. It also does not maximise opportunities to create and sustain high-quality jobs in all parts of the UK. Whilst your Department considers entries to this project, we call on you to develop a similar, additional scheme to create the country’s first All Hydrogen Bus Town.”
The letter continues by highlighting the benefits of hydrogen as a power source: “We believe there is an equal need to create similar learning and experience with hydrogen electric, as concerns about costs and practicalities for this technology are from small scale trials in the distant past:
- Modern hydrogen electric vehicles can equal or better the total cost of ownership of an electric vehicle
- Refuelling a hydrogen electric vehicle takes the same amount of time as fuelling a diesel one
- Hydrogen electric vehicles emit only water vapour, significantly supporting steps to increase air quality
- We can produce hydrogen in the UK in a clean, green sustainable manner, which in turn creates jobs and economic growth
- Most importantly, hydrogen electric vehicles can have significantly greater range than battery electric and need no on-street infrastructure.”
The letter goes on to assert that hydrogen has a place in the economy not only for transport but also in industry in a wider context: “Crucially, creating the world’s first All Hydrogen Bus Town will unlock the UK’s hydrogen economy. Hydrogen is not just the only practical option for decarbonising heavy transport, but also for energy intensive industries such as steel, and heating the 23m UK homes that are connected to the gas grid. A UK-wide hydrogen economy will create and sustain hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs in all areas of the country, meaning it can play a leading role in building our economic recovery.”
Commenting on the letter, one of the signatories, Buta Atwal, Chief Executive of Wrightbus, said: “We have created the world’s first hydrogen electric double decker bus, which emits only water as they move around cities. These buses will enter London and Aberdeen this year, with more cities after that. It is bizarre that a British designed and built bus is not eligible to be bought by a local council under this Government scheme.”
Eman Martin-Vignerte, Head of Bosch’s UK Governmental and Political Relationships added: “At Bosch, we believe that hydrogen will play a major role in heating homes, powering transport and heavy industry. We are already manufacturing hydrogen-ready boilers at our site in the West Midlands, and we’re looking to the government to take some ambitious, positive steps to help unlock the UK’s hydrogen potential. Creating an All Hydrogen Bus Town would be a powerful statement to businesses looking to make long term investment decisions”.