Case Study

Inverness Hydrogen Trials

Powering a Highlands hydrogen bus trial

Background:

Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) – the transport partnership covering the Western Isles, Orkney, Highland, Moray and most of the Argyll and Bute area – combined with Opportunity Cromarty Firth to engage Element 2 for a hydrogen bus trial in October and November 2021. The bus routes are operated by Stagecoach Highlands, and it was Element 2’s role to source the correct hydrogen bus, refuel it, and test its viability over the length of the trial.

Objectives:

  • To source the right model of hydrogen bus that could cope with the hilly terrain and multiple rural routes of the Highlands.
  • To successfully supply and refuel the vehicle with hydrogen for the duration of the trial.
  • To showcase the environmental, efficiency, and cost benefits of hydrogen as an alternative to diesel, and prove the hydrogen market can deliver for bus operators.

Challenges:

Our end-to-end role – from sourcing the vehicle, to refuelling and testing it, and finally providing data at the end of the trial – meant we needed to take a truly holistic approach to this project. In addition, one of the major challenges was finding the right vehicle to use in this demanding landscape. We also needed to navigate the challenge of sourcing and delivering a resilient supply of hydrogen that was as environmentally friendly as possible.

Solution:

  • We chose a bus from Caetano that we knew would be able to manage the rigorous Highland routes. It is a high-performance vehicle, emitting zero CO2 emissions, with hydrogen fuel cells stored in the roof, to allow more space for passengers.
  • We supplied clean, low carbon hydrogen, sourced through our distributed network of producers, and used our mobile refueller at the bus depot to ensure the vehicle could be refuelled when needed, at the high pressure required.
  • A strategic collaboration with Aberdeen City Council ensured we could supply the greenest hydrogen possible.
  • For the engineering works, supply and integration and hydrogen delivery, we worked closely with local engineering partner, Logan Energy.

Results:

  • Bus drove over 1,100km over the course of the trial, was successfully refuelled when required, and averaged just under 6kg/100km hydrogen used.
  • Average consumption was as expected (1.11kWh.km, including stationary heating etc.).
  • This data shows the superior performance of hydrogen vs battery bus.
  • On the back of this successful trial, Stagecoach Highlands is now exploring a potential move to hydrogen buses in the future.

David Beaton, Managing Director, Stagecoach Highlands said: “Testing a hydrogen bus with Element 2 was a game-changer for us. We now know that hydrogen technology works, and can deliver above and beyond our expectations. We’re thrilled to be working so closely with Element 2 as it builds out its UK-wide hydrogen refuelling network, and look forward to future collaboration. Put simply, hydrogen is part of the future for our buses, for our local green economy, and for our planet.”

Tony Tomsett, Business Development Director, Caetano UK said: “We’re so proud of our partnership with Element 2, as both organisations are working towards the same goal: the decarbonisation of our roads. The combination of Element 2’s hydrogen refuelling infrastructure coupled with our state-of-the-art hydrogen buses means that, together, we can forge a pathway towards net zero in the coming years.”