Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Specific challenge: The FCH JU is developing a hydrogen bus commercialisation activity. This will develop and implement a business case for the roll-out of 500-1000 buses on Europe’s roads before 2020.

Today’s practice across Europe is that buses refuel at their depots. One of the main challenges to a vision of a commercial fuel cell bus offering is the lack of evidence and understanding about how a large scale bus depot would maintain and refuel a large fleet of buses. Currently the largest bus fleets fuelled at a single depot have between 5 and 20 buses (100-400kg of hydrogen per day). Commercial bus depots could require 75-300 buses to refuel in one day (1,500-6,000kg of hydrogen per day for a typical European 12m bus). This is further complicated by the fact that buses frequently operate for the vast majority of the day and night - an entire depot’s fleet could need to refuel within a 4-6 hour window, leading to a requirement for very rapid sequential or parallel filling. Additionally specific hydrogen-ready maintenance facilities are not yet in place.

Hydrogen fuelling systems on this scale have not been developed to a high degree of technical readiness. In order to reduce implementation risks on the pathway to commercialisation and to increase planning certainty, detailed engineering work to understand the options, technical challenges, practical implications and costs of refuelling on a bus depot scale is required. In addition, there may be benefits arising from a hydrogen demand of this scale in unlocking innovative routes to hydrogen production and supply.

Scope:  The project will involve a consortium of bus depot operators, hydrogen refuelling station (HRS) equipment suppliers (at least 3), fuel cell bus developers, hydrogen producers and potentially cities or public transport authorities carrying out a series of detailed engineering studies for specific bus depots across Europe to develop viable refuelling systems for large hydrogen bus fleets. Consortia may opt to include some of the relevant stakeholders in an observer group.  The objective for the project is the production of detailed engineering design studies for a minimum of five representative bus depots, from at least three member states across Europe. The studies will consider the hydrogen fuelling station requirements for at least 75 – 150 buses operating from the bus depots. The outputs may feed into business planning activities at a local and European level.

The work will consider the range of options for supplying hydrogen to bus depots, including off-site production (including different options for delivery of hydrogen) and on-site production. For each depot, the local circumstances should be assessed. For each site a pathway to decarbonisation of that hydrogen will be developed in line with local CO2 emission reduction aspirations. The engineering work should focus on assessing a range of technical solutions, narrowing down on a preferred option and then assessing the implications of that solution in terms of the costs of the solution, the components needed, the approvals and permissions processes and the practical implications for the bus depot. Where opportunities exist for standardising components or specifications, these should be assessed across the five depots considered.

In each depot, the practical implications of supplying a volume of hydrogen on an unprecedented scale will be developed. The aim here will be to understand the additional administrative and practical burdens which large fuelling systems of this type will place on bus depot operators. In addition, the engineering teams should work with bus depot operators on potential solutions to these challenges (e.g. changes in filling patterns). Here, the aim will be to achieve a balance between the cost of changes to the way bus depots are operated and the cost of the filling solution.

For each location, the implications of local regulations, codes and standards on the designs will be assessed, and the teams will ensure that the process for obtaining approvals and permission to operate stations on busy bus depots is well understood and can be met. Where new regulations are required at these larger scales, or there is merit in challenging existing regulations, this will be highlighted by the consortium

The consortium is responsible for assembling the data produced from the design studies into data appropriate for dissemination both within the consortium and to those participating in the FCH JU’s bus commercialisation project. A public dissemination exercise based on a reduced version of this dataset will also ensure that the lessons learned are available to stakeholders in the wider bus industry (both potential providers and users of hydrogen infrastructure).

Expected impact:

•             A study covering the high level principles of large refuelling station designs (more than 1,500kg per day) to allow an identification of the factors which lead to the lowest costs of hydrogen supply at a range of specific bus depots 

•             Given that a number of operators/regions are likely to be interested in the design study process and that is possible that more operators will be affiliated with the study than those for whom there will be resources for technical studies, the consortium will need to:

o             Provide a mechanism to down-select depots for detailed design work

o             Provide a mechanism to allow any operators who are not selected to remain associated with the study and learn from the technical work carried out

•             For the selected depots (minimum five):

o             Establish a performance specification for the bus depot HRS

o             Conduct an initial options study to assess the range of configurations for the supply of a large fleet of hydrogen buses

o             For each of the options considered, an indicative assessment of the parameters which influence the cost of hydrogen supply and practical implication should be undertaken 

o             Work with the local partners to down-select to one preferred option for detailed design work

o             Develop detailed designs of the refuelling station equipment required for the preferred options at each depot

o             Provide budgeting information for each of the station detailed designs, in terms of both indicative capital and operating costs. Methodologies to respect anti-trust legislation for data sharing need to be implemented. Report on the impact of local regulations codes and standards on the feasibility of the different depot designs, including a comparative study on the situation in different member states and recommendations on where new regulations or revisions to existing regulations would facilitate installation of large HRS

o             Consortia may choose to investigate necessary adjustments to dedicated hydrogen bus maintenance facilities in terms of safety, tooling requirements, accessibility to roof-top installations and spare parts availability

o             Develop a view on the potential for cost reduction through time and/or compromises which could be made by the bus operators in the performance requirements of the station to achieve this

o             Establish a forum for exchange of data across the depot design projects on the potential for standardisation of the approach (or specific components)

Knowledge sharing around the engineering solutions generated is an important aspect of the project. The successful consortium will ensure that the following data is shared with relevant consortium member groups and relevant participants in the FCH JU’s bus commercialisation efforts respecting sensitive commercial boundaries:

•             High level description of the strategy for supplying hydrogen to  the respective investigated bus depot

•             Indicative layouts for the preferred depot design, indicating the land take and safety zones neutralised by the presence of hydrogen at the depot

•             Description of the operational constraints imposed by the fuelling station on the depots

•             Indicative cost information for each depot. Data should be sufficient to allow parties to develop a business plan for implementing the preferred fuelling solution

•             Information on the environmental footprint of the hydrogen supply options

•             Information on required adaption of maintenance facilities (if investigated)

In addition, the consortium will ensure that an aggregated selection of the data above can be made available in a public format to allow those looking to start similar initiatives access to the data required to assess large scale bus depot fuelling.

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