Swiss drop hydrogen as US and Dutch trials announced

Switzerland’s PostAuto has halted its trial of hydrogen fuel-cell buses after five years, saying engineers are not convinced that the technology is a viable option for the future. This comes as new fuel-cell trials have been announced in the United States and Netherlands.

PostAuto’s five Mercedes-Benz Citaros — purchased for SFr11million (£8.8million) — are based in Brugg in Aargau canton and have covered 1.2million km since December 2011 as part of the CHIC (Clean Hydrogen in European Cities) initiative. They will operate for a few more months before being phased out.

The future of the SFr2million (£1.6million) hydrogen refuelling station, the first for buses in the country, also hangs in the balance. PostAuto says passengers appreciated the vehicles’ quietness, and feedback was positive. ‘For a while we did think about extending the project for two years but decided against it,’ says spokesman Urs Bloch. An extension would not have provided any additional technical data.

‘Maintenance costs went up over the period and the running costs per km were considerably higher than for equivalent diesel buses.’ Bloch says PostAuto has not given up on hydrogen fuel-cell technology altogether and will monitor the market.

Both new US projects are in California, with AC Transit in Oakland and 530-vehicle Orange County Transportation Authority (Octa) south of Los Angeles each taking 10 New Flyer XHE40 vehicles next year. AC Transit already has 12 fuel-cell Van Hools in its 625-vehicle fleet in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Dutch project is in Groningen, where state railway-owned QBuzz will operate two Van Hool fuel-cells in place of diesels. The trial is part of the High V.LO-City project already providing hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in Aberdeen, Antwerp and San Remo.