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Stib to test new hydrogen bus in Brussels

Illustration picture shows the engine of a hydrogen bus. (BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK)
09:36 08/01/2021

Brussels public transport operator Stib has announced that it will test a hydrogen bus over the next two years to see what advantages the vehicle has over ordinary, hybrid and electric buses.

The Stib will be renting the hydrogen bus from Belgian bus builder Van Hool. It will be tested on different bus lines to assess its performance and efficiency. "The intention is to expand our green policy in our bus fleet even further," said a spokeswoman for the Brussels transport company.

Stib already expressed its interest in hydrogen buses when representatives attended the 2019 Mobility Congress in Stockholm and has since rolled out several electric and hybrid vehicles in its fleet, but a bus that runs on hydrogen has not been used until now.

"A hydrogen bus would have greater autonomy than electric buses, but in Brussels there are many slopes and traffic is not equally busy everywhere,” the spokeswoman added. “That's why we need to look at how the vehicle behaves." This test will also be carried out in collaboration with the capital’s VUB and ULB universities.

Hydrogen buses are quiet and emission-free with an electric motor, but instead of being powered by batteries, like a traditional electric bus, the bus produces its own electricity in a fuel cell using hydrogen. The buses are refuelled much like ordinary petrol and diesel cars, but on special hydrogen stations. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

"The bus does not have to carry a heavy battery and can refuel before the ride, but of course you have to be able to provide that hydrogen somewhere,” the Stib spokeswoman said. “That's a challenge."

Exactly when the new vehicle will arrive is not yet certain and the cost also depends on when the test period begins, because "the rental price for the hydrogen bus can still change".

Written by Nick Amies