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Large scale validation of fuel cell bus fleets


This topic calls for simultaneous deployment and demonstration of larger scale FC bus fleets in line with the recommendations of the FCH JU’s bus commercialisation roadmap in Europe until 2020*. The project will cover the roll-out of a set of fleets amounting to at least 100 FC buses consisting of at least 3 locations with minimum 20 buses per depot. The minimum number of buses per location/depot for additional locations should be 10. Concrete statements should be provided in the proposals regarding the willingness of operators to further expand the fleets after the project. The project will serve to analyse the operation of large fleets of buses and their impact on everyday heavy usage bus operation, including the specific purchasing mechanisms like e.g. joint procurement to efficiently commercialise innovative technology.

FC buses

The buses deployed within the project should have a high level of standardization and learning from previous projects shall reflect significantly in the availability of the buses. The buses are considered to be close to commercial readiness from both a technical maturity and an economic perspective.

The generation of FC buses deployed in this project shall at least have been tested in prior projects (EU & non-EU, minor system changes to improve availability are acceptable) in order to assure a reliable operation of the bus fleets leveraging existing experience and leading to more operating uptime.

Buses are expected to comply with the following requirements:

  • Buses can be FC-hybrid or full power FC (FC system as the dominating power source), but at least half of the energy required for performing their expected duty cycle should be provided from hydrogen.
  • The minimum operational period for any bus demonstrated in the project is 24 months, whereas in all cases arrangements for extending operation after the end of the project are expected and should be documented in the proposal as a matter of key importance. A minimum of 50% of all buses should be introduced in the first 2 years of the project and should be 36 months or 100,000km in operational service
  • Maximum funding: The funding per vehicle cannot exceed 200.000€ per standard bus [1] (12/13.5 m), 250.000 € per articulated bus (>18m), provided they are equipped with a full power FC system of at least 50kW. In addition, for range-extender units or other alternative solutions complying with the given requirements, the funding is limited to 1500€/kW installed FC system
  • Maximum price (for the customer): 650,000€ for a standard bus and less than 1,000,000€ for articulated buses
  • >20,000h vehicle operation lifetime initially, minimum 25,000h lifetime as project target
  • The key energy source of vehicles must be hydrogen in a fuel cell dominated or range extender architecture. At least half of the power requirement should be provided by the fuel cell
  • Fuel cell system MTBF [2] >2,500 km
  • Availability >90% on a fleet basis after an initial 6 month ramp-up phase (to be measured in available operation time excluding scheduled preventive maintenance)
  • Tank-to-wheel efficiency >42%, for buses measured in the SORT 1 & 2 drive cycles.
  • Series production ability as well as the cost reduction potential as a result of the project have to be demonstrated.


This topic focuses on the demonstration of larger hydrogen refuelling station for large bus fleets based on previous engineering research projects (min. > 20 buses and 400 kg refuelling capacity per day). The challenge is to maintain high levels of station availability, specify the right level of system redundancy and ensure fuel availability during the entire operation.

For the location(s) that begin testing fuel cell buses at a smaller scale, a pathway towards larger fuel cell bus fleets (>50) needs to be provided as a result of the project. Projects and cities with a clear strategic goal to increase their hydrogen bus fleet and projects with a higher buses/station ratio will have priority as the impact for the commercialisation will be bigger.

HRS are expected to comply with the following requirements:

  • HRS are to be designed to allow for cost effective operation in each location, including plans for scaling up as fleets expand
  • A target availability of the station of 98% (measured in usable operation time of the station providing redundancy for service and maintenance) excluding scheduled preventive maintenance
  • Inclusion of the HRS designs developed under earlier programmes (in particular the NewBusFuel project from the 2014 call) to show integration of concept and cost down potential of hydrogen production and storage for larger fleets as well as the potential to scale up capacity
  • The cost of dispensed hydrogen offered in the project needs to be consistent with the national or regional strategy on hydrogen pricing. Cost improvements due to increased hydrogen production capacity and especially higher utilization rates of the HRS is anticipated in the course of the project (target at the pump < 9 €/kg excl. taxes)
  • Hydrogen purity has to be at least 99.999 %

A maximum funding per large HRS (20 buses) is 1,200,000 € and smaller stations (10 buses) is 600,000 €, excluding on-site production equipment.


Beyond demonstration of the technology the participating cities shall engage in communication of their efforts to partner cities/regions in Europe and beyond through appropriate channels to share their experience within the project (e.g. UITP meeting/city conferences, etc.)

This topic includes funding caps which are clearly below the maximum funding rates applicable in the framework programme Horizon 2020 and the FCH 2 JU. This is done on purpose as beneficiaries are expected to obtain co-funding.

In order to facilitate co-funding and compliance with all the rules applicable to the different funding sources, beneficiaries are allowed to shift the capped budget from one cost item to another as long as (1) they comply with the rules applicable in the framework programme Horizon 2020 and the FCH 2 JU and (2) they remain under the budget defined by the funding caps.

Example: a beneficiary deploying 1 HRS and 20 12meter buses. The maximum reimbursement for this deployment is 1*€1.200.000 + 20*€200.000= €5.200.000. To facilitate co-funding, said beneficiary can shift the budget from the HRS to the buses or vice versa as long as the budget remains under 5.2M€ and complies with the reimbursement rules of the FCH 2 JU and all other applicable rules.

It is necessary that the project shows evidence for co-funding by national, regional or private sources in order to demonstrate a strong commitment towards clean propulsion and emission free public transport. Any such co-funding should be fully secured before the signature of the grant agreement to ensure timely realisation of the project.

Proposers should provide a clear evidence of:

  • political support for the project together with commitment to further involvement in the roll out must be provided as part of the proposal, through a Letter of Intent
  • a comprehensive exploitation plan for the project should also form part of the proposal.

Any event (accidents, incidents, near misses) that may occur during the project execution shall be reported into the European reference database HIAD (Hydrogen Incident and Accident Database) at

The consortium should include multiple bus service providers/operators, bus OEMs, refuelling infrastructure providers/operators, fuel retailers, industrial players, local and regional bodies, as appropriate and relevant to the effective delivery of the project.

To be eligible for participation a consortium must contain at least one constituent entity of the Industry or Research Grouping Proposals should clearly demonstrate the commitment of OEMs to supply vehicles to the project. The involvement of SMEs is encouraged.

The following TRLs are at least required:

  • 7 for FC buses at start of project
  • 7 for the HRS at start of project.

The maximum FCH 2 JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 32 million. This is an eligibility criterion – proposals requesting FCH 2 JU contribution above this amount will not be evaluated.

Expected duration: 4-6 years

A maximum of 1 project may be funded under this topic.


[1] Basic 12m low entry, class 1 city bus, with 2 doors, air conditioning, min. 30 seats, traction batteries for operation on flat terrain, all IT equipment (except destination signs) delivered by the operator, manually operated ramp, delivered ex-factory OEM. Extra for special equipment excluded.

[2] MTBF: mean time between failure, failure means any incident caused by the vehicle which interrupts the operation of the vehicle

The urban bus application has been identified as a priority value application for fuel cells and hydrogen, for a number of reasons: a political agenda supporting a shift from individual to public transport; stringent CO2 and exhaust (CO, NOx, PM) emissions as well as noise reduction objectives.

Hydrogen allows for the use of renewable energy, dramatic well to wheel emission reductions* which are a primary driver for future urban traffic electrification plans in the EU and very high operational flexibility.

Earlier EU programmes (CHIC, High VLOCity, HyTransit and 3EMotion) have shown a 75% price reduction of the bus since 1990 with volumes remaining small, opening up different pathways to full commercialisation as of 2020.

To achieve this objective, the commercialisation study, conducted by Roland Berger Strategy Consulting contracted by the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking recommends that a first step change that needs to be made is through:

  • an increase of volume by aggregating number of about 100 units
  • increased number of vehicles serviced per station
  • a coalition of cross the board cities and regions forming regional clusters throughout the EU member states, who are committed to deploying the technology in the H2020 time frame.
  • joint procurement as modern investment tool shall be applied to improve terms & conditions for operators and stability of supply for producers

Commitments thereto have been made jointly by the supply side in November 2014 (5 bus OEM’s) and by the demand side (30+ bus operators) in June 2015. Five bus OEM’s are developing next generation bus models to show the cost down potential and take the technology from a current TRL 6/7 (demos) to TRL 8/9 (semi and full commercialisation) level from now through the end of Horizon 2020.

The purpose of this bus validation topic is therefore to establish a committed coalition that can achieve the aggregate volume and a demonstration scale that is necessary to meet further cost reductions required for a full commercialisation of fuel cell bus technology and the associated infrastructure by 2020. FC bus manufacturers have indicated that a cumulative production volume of 500 to 1000 buses is required to trigger full commercial roll-out. This is a challenge both in terms of acquisition of the buses (large enough numbers to reduce costs) and their operation, and also the HRSs needed for such yield of hydrogen and its supply.

*See: Well-To-Wheels Report Version 4.a JEC Well-To-Wheels Analysis: Well-To-Wheels Analysis of Future Automotive Fuels and Powertrains in the European Context

FC buses

According to previous investigations on fuel cell buses it is expected that the project leads to further cost reduction of FC-buses and the necessary power train components. The envisaged cost level for a standard 12m FC-bus (equipped with a full power FC-system) produced in larger numbers in 2020 is 600,000 Euro*. Further, the project needs to trigger uptake of FC-buses by European cities. In addition it is anticipated that larger fleets of buses create higher public awareness of the technology increasing interest in hydrogen and fuel cell solutions for public transport in general, stimulating further demand.


Hydrogen refuelling stations for larger fleets of fuel cell buses will be heavily utilised and therefore generate a bigger learning effect in comparison to underutilised stations for other applications. It shall increase the confidence of bus operators in reliable fuel supply and demonstrate the viability of fuel cells in public transport even in a full role out scenario, i.e. all buses at a depot run on hydrogen. Furthermore, fuel cell bus stations can occasionally be combined with refuelling points for other applications that might trigger awareness, understanding and demand for applications. Previous engineering research will contribute to successful implementation and execution of this project.


The project should deliver:

  • Lessons learnt from implementing and operating large hydrogen bus fleets for follower cities
  • Identification of bottlenecks – technical, organisational, structural, financial including RCS and formulation of recommendations on how to address these
  • Quantitatively and qualitatively evaluate the impact of the technology on public health and urban living (e.g. comparison against incumbent technology, in situ measurement etc.)

Professional dissemination of the activities of the project to the broad public is seen as a key part of the demonstration project. It should especially be foreseen to communicate the benefits of hydrogen and fuel cells in public transport. Regional authorities should support the project with communication.

*See: Fuel Cell Electric Buses – Potential for Sustainable Public Transport in Europe, A Study for the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking