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Ruhrbahn: Purchase of 258 fuel cell buses announced

Solaris on test at Ruhrbahn - left to right: Uwe Bonan and Michael Feller (MD Ruhrbahn), Lord Mayor Thomas Kufen, Alan Przylebski (Solaris Deutschland) and Simone Raskob (Counciler City of Essen) | © Ruhrbahn

INDUSTRY FOCUS: Alternative Propulsion Systems

Ruhrbahn is the public transportation operator for the German cities of Essen and Mülheim/Ruhr. The company intends to convert its entire bus fleet largely to locally emission-free propulsion technology, according to a recently published announcement: On 24 March 2021, the Essen City Council approved a wide-ranging conversion scheme from diesel to fuel cell bus technology.

Since the year 2017, Ruhrbahn has already been preparing itself for this technology change to emission-free bus transportation. “Like many other large cities, we are facing the great challenge of the changing traffic environment. Our task is to offer an intelligent mobility mix so that citizens do not only get from A to B easily, but also in a sustainable way,” says Lord Mayor Thomas Kufen. “To achieve this, we not only need a good public transport network but also modern drive technologies.”


Technology change at the Ruhrbahn

By 2024 at the latest, the planned introduction of the hydrogen technology will require fundamental adjustments to Ruhrbahn’s fixed infrastructure. This will not just affect the depot areas in general but also the workshop areas as well as the re-filling stations. In addition, a concept for the procurement of fuel cell buses as well as for the supply of hydrogen needs to be finalized. “In three years, we will start operating our zero-emission bus fleet in Essen and Mülheim. At the end of 2024, the first hydrogen buses will operate out of our Ruhrallee and Rosendahl depots. I am pleased that we will be able to offer our passengers an even more attractive and climate-friendly public transport system. The time schedule for the implementation is ambitious, especially as we will also implement other major infrastructure projects in parallel, such as the construction of the CITYBAHN,” explains Michael Feller, Managing Director of Ruhrbahn (Human Resources, Market & Technology).

Testing on the line

Since 22 March 2021, the Ruhrbahn is testing a fuel cell bus from Solaris in the Essen service area for reliability, range and technical requirements. “In view of the ambitious schedule, we are pleased that we currently have the opportunity to gain initial experience with the use of a hydrogen bus,” says Uwe Bonan, Managing Director Ruhrbahn (Finance, Purchasing and Operations Department). The range of the electric Solaris Urbino 12 hydrogen is expected to be approximately 350 km. The electrical energy in the hydrogen fuel cell is generated via the reverse electrolysis of water. “The only products of the chemical reaction in the fuel cell are heat and water vapour. The vehicle therefore emits absolutely no pollutants,” explains Alan Przylebski (sales manager at Solaris Deutschland GmbH) the benefits of the technology.

In mid-May 2021, further test runs will follow in the Ruhrbahn’s Mülheim service area, then with a fuel cell bus from the Portuguese company CaetanoBus. The start of the tender for the fuel cell buses is planned for this year and the first hydrogen-powered vehicles should be rolling through the Ruhrbahn’s service area as early as 2024. “Despite the possibility of still ordering diesel buses from 2024 onwards, we have decided against procuring vehicles with conventional drives and are striving for the continuous expansion of an emission-free fleet. The complete conversion is planned for 2033 at the latest,” says Bonan.

Between 2024 and 2033, a total of 258 hydrogen buses will be purchased, 212 for Essen and 46 for Mülheim (see table above). Ruhrbahn expects public funding for the necessary financing.

(Information provided by: Ruhrbahn)

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