Bern supports mobility tests in the field of hydrogen

Bern supports mobility tests in the field of hydrogen

The Federal Office of Transport has given the go-ahead for tests with various "H" bus models and examined the issue of "green" trucks

The first hydrogen bus being tested in Switzerland by three public transport operators
The first hydrogen bus being tested in Switzerland by three public transport operators

Not only electric mobility, but also hydrogen vehicles are a tool that can contribute to the decarbonisation of traffic.
In Switzerland, the Federal Office of Transport recently gave the green light to tests with a hydrogen bus and commissioned studies to take stock of the prospects of this technology in public transport.
Progress has been made in the field of hydrogen-related technologies in the last ten years and in the medium term the use of vehicles using this energy source seems to be possible also in public transport.
For this reason, the FOT has recently approved a hydrogen bus, a demonstration vehicle made available to the various public transport companies in Switzerland, who can test it in turn for journeys with and without passengers.
It is also planned to do the same test with a hydrogen bus from another brand.

The Swiss report “Energétique Strategy 2050 dans les Transports Publics” (in French)
The Swiss report “Motorisation à l'hydrogène des bus de transport public” (in French)

Visible hydrogen in elemental form
Visible hydrogen in elemental form

Two alternatives: fuel cell (FCEB) or internal combustion (H2ICEB)

In the framework of the Energy Strategy for Public Transport 2050 (SETraP2050), the FOT commissioned two studies on the potential of hydrogen in public transport.
The authors analyze the advantages and disadvantages of two types of hydrogen buses, fuel cell buses (FCEB) and internal combustion engines (H2ICEB), compared to diesel and electric buses.

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The first two fuel cell buses in the German Rhine-Main region have entered test service at Industriepark Höchst. Bus company Winzenhöler uses them to transport Höchst employees around the plant: it bought them in Switzerland, where they were last used by PostAuto AG as part of the EU project "Clean Hydrogen in European Cities". The basic model of the bus is a Mercedes-Benz Citaro, which has been converted accordingly. The components required for the BZ technology (i.e. the hydrogen tanks, the high-voltage battery, the cooling unit and the fuel cell itself) are located on the roof: Up to 350 km range is possible with a single refueling, which is enough for the daily mileage in the industrial park
The first two fuel cell buses in the German Rhine-Main region have entered test service at Industriepark Höchst. Bus company Winzenhöler uses them to transport Höchst employees around the plant: it bought them in Switzerland, where they were last used by PostAuto AG as part of the EU project “Clean Hydrogen in European Cities”. The basic model of the bus is a Mercedes-Benz Citaro, which has been converted accordingly. The components required for the BZ technology (i.e. the hydrogen tanks, the high-voltage battery, the cooling unit and the fuel cell itself) are located on the roof: Up to 350 km range is possible with a single refueling, which is enough for the daily mileage in the industrial park

The first element of the periodic table just right for longer journeys or significant altitude differences

In terms of technical performance, both electric and hydrogen buses can be used for short daily distances, generally for urban journeys.
The latter, however, are particularly suitable for long distances, covering more than 250 kilometers a day or with significant gradients, for example in the mountains.
Hydrogen buses, in fact, have more autonomy than electric ones, which need heavy and larger batteries in order to have sufficient capacity.
Hydrogen technology could therefore serve, in the future, to replace part of the diesel fleet currently used in regional traffic.

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Dihydrogen is highly flammable in air: the disaster of the Hindenburg airship, on May 6, 1937 in New York, was also due to this characteristic
Dihydrogen is highly flammable in air: the disaster of the Hindenburg airship, on May 6, 1937 in New York, was also due to this characteristic

Main obstacle: a production that is still complex and expensive, especially if "green" ...

The main obstacle to the adoption of hydrogen technologies remains its production, still complex, energy intensive and expensive, even more so if only green fuel is used.
Even today, an FCEB hydrogen bus costs twice as much as a diesel one and its maintenance requires at least 10-20 percent more expense. According to one of the studies conducted, however, H2ICEB hydrogen buses will be less expensive than electric ones, considering the entire life cycle.
Furthermore, the internal combustion solution eliminates the need to purchase a new vehicle, considering that it is possible to keep the existing bus and simply replace or convert its diesel engine to hydrogen, adding a storage system for the latter.
The possibility of using hydrogen as an alternative to fossil energy is not limited to buses, so much so that reflections are being conducted on the matter in other areas as well, such as navigation or railway construction sites.

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Hyundai's XCIENT Fuel Cell model hydrogen truck on an Alpine mountain in Switzerland
Hyundai's XCIENT Fuel Cell model hydrogen truck on an Alpine mountain in Switzerland

"Green" trucks excluded from the performance-related heavy traffic tax

Together with other federal agencies, the FOT also supports the use of hydrogen vehicles in the freight transport sector.
Like electric trucks, hydrogen trucks are excluded from the performance-related HGV charge, although they also cause external costs.
These vehicles in fact use the road network, thus contributing to congestion and environmental impact.
According to the new CO2 law in consultation until the beginning of April, the exemption from the tax should be extended until 2030, in order to guarantee the transport industry safe planning of investments in this area.

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An illustration depicting the chemical formula of hydrogen
An illustration depicting the chemical formula of hydrogen