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Hydrogen-powered buses

With hydrogen into the future of drive systems

With hydrogen into the future of drive systems

In addition to new technologies, we need a change in behaviour when it comes to mobility so that we can achieve the EU climate targets for reducing CO₂ emissions. That is why ÖBB-Postbus, as Austria’s largest bus company, is putting its know-how into the development of hydrogen and thus into a climate-friendly and emissions-free future in public transport. It’s how we’re making our contribution to ensuring that our planet remains worth living on for future generations. When it comes to developing hydrogen as a green technology of the future, we are not only drivers of innovation in Austria but also pioneers in the industry. Initial successful trials in scheduled bus services clearly show we are on the right track and ready to make regular use of these buses.

Hydrogen as a fuel for the electric motor

The bus runs on a hydrogen-powered electric motor. Energy is generated in the fuel cell installed in the vehicle by means of a chemical reaction that takes place through the supply of oxygen. A major difference between this and battery-powered buses is that power is generated directly in the vehicle. Hydrogen-powered buses have a range of around 400 kilometres per tank of fuel - making them ideal for intercity transport. Apart from the fact that refuelling a bus with hydrogen in normal operation takes only about 15 minutes (for 30 to 35 kg of hydrogen), hydrogen buses offer another clear advantage in the winter: the chemical reaction in the fuel cell generates heat that can be used to heat the bus.

Postbus launches first hydrogen buses on intercity routes

Postbus already proved that hydrogen works as a propulsion technology in October 2018 in a pilot operation on Vienna Airport Lines routes and in mid-August 2019 with further tests in Graz and Klagenfurt. This year, the first five buses in the Villach-Land region will be refueled with hydrogen. In total, there will be 40 buses, each carrying 74 passengers. The deployment of five hydrogen buses will start in December 2022. Postbus will thus be the first bus company in Austria to operate hydrogen buses in intercity transport.

How it all began: tests that bear our signature

ÖBB-Postbus has carried out several trials of a hydrogen bus in Austria

With the first use of a hydrogen bus in regular service in 2018 with Vienna Airport Lines (Schwechat Airport - Vienna), we were able to gain important experience of this technology. This was a decisive step in showing what possibilities hydrogen - and technologies of the future - can offer.

The drivers received specific driver training beforehand to learn about how the bus drives and how to handle it, as there are some differences compared to diesel-powered vehicles. In the workshops, too, there are special features that need to be taken into account when handling the buses.

Flagship project in Styria
Another strong partner for further trials was found in Styria. In cooperation with Graz Linien, we conducted a one-week test of an emissions-free hydrogen bus in Graz and the surrounding area in 2019. The hydrogen bus was tested both in urban traffic and in the local area. Since there are no regular filling stations for H2 buses in Austria yet, the bus was refuelled at a research facility.

Carinthia as a model region for hydrogen technologies
As part of the province’s hydrogen initiative, the first public demo drive of a bus powered purely by hydrogen in public transport took place in August 2019. Every half hour, interested citizens were able to experience the future of green mobility up close in Klagenfurt city centre.

In July 2020, the Carinthian provincial government presented a project that is unique in Europe and sets the stage for a climate-neutral bus service throughout central Carinthia. Representatives from politics and the companies Postbus, Infineon, OMV, Verbund and HyCentA (as scientific partners) jointly signed a declaration of intent to launch the pioneering project ‘H2Carinthia’.

The aim is to convert an entire transport region using only hydrogen-powered and thus climate-neutral buses, while at the same time using locally produced hydrogen as a dual energy source - both in industrial microchip production at Infineon and subsequently for fuelling buses in the Villach region. At the forefront of the project: Postbus. As Austria’s largest bus company, we are delighted to be able to employ our know-how, developments and innovations in such an important project for a climate-friendly and emissions-free future in public transport. Postbus is not only heading in the right direction in terms of making all bus traffic in Carinthia CO₂-neutral: with this project, we are taking the fast lane as pioneers of alternative drive technologies.

For more information, please visit https://www.klimafonds.gv.at/dossier/wasserstoff-dossier/expertinnen-runde/