The hydrogen gas compressed to 350 bars in nine pressurized tanks fitted onto the roofs of the Citaro buses provides enough fuel for the vehicles to travel about 200 kilometres, enough for a day’s work

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Test fleets of hydrogen buses
operate in ten European cities

1 November 2003: Nine years after the publication of a study on ‘New Electric Cars’ (NECAR), the German/US automotive group DaimlerChrysler is now testing fleets of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the US, Europe and Asia. The tests involve the company’s Citaro city buses and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class model.

October 2006 update: Five European cities have committed themselves to work together to develop and procure hydrogen fuel cell buses as the future for clean green bus fleets. The buses, which only emit water vapour and not harmful emissions, have been successfully tested by German automotive company DaimlerChrysler in several European cities. At a ceremony at the European Union in Brussels, representatives from Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Hamburg and London signed a memorandum of understanding to make the technology commercially viable.

DaimlerChrysler’s research director Professor Klaus-Dieter Vöhringer told City Mayors that overcoming the dependence on crude oil and finding solutions to the energy problems of the future was one of the biggest challenges with which researchers and engineers are faced.

Since introducing the first NECAR (New Electric Car) in 1994, DaimlerChrysler has decisively advanced fuel cell technology and presented 20 concept vehicles, thus demonstrating the technical feasibility of the revolutionary new propulsion principle employing the ‘fuel cell’. The fuel cell functions as an electrochemical energy converter on board the vehicle to generate energy from hydrogen for an electric motor. The size and weight of the drive unit have been reduced considerably since then while performance has improved tremendously.

Now, with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class ‘F-Cell’, the first cars to grow out of the research stage have gone on the roads. The cars in this fleet feature a special, innovative interior design, offer just as much space as the production cars and are being manufactured under near-standard conditions. The development of this technology will now be furthered mainly in practical operation.

At the same time DaimlerChrysler is introducing the first hydrogen-powered buses in Europe. During 2004, some 30 city buses based on the Mercedes-Benz Citaro are operating in ten major European cities: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hamburg, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Porto, Reykjavik, Stockholm and Stuttgart. These buses have to prove their mettle in demanding daily line service, in the cold of the Nordic winter and the heat of the Spanish summer, in flatlands and in hilly regions like Stuttgart. Several thousand passengers a day in Europe will in future directly experience this innovative and clean drive system. And a great many more people will benefit from these vehicles as residents or road users in inner-city traffic.

The twelve-metre-long Mercedes-Benz Citaro with fuel cell drive has a range of approximately 200 kilometres and a capacity for up to 70 passengers, depending on individual customer specifications. The fuel cell unit with an output in excess of 200 kilowatt, and the pressure cylinders containing hydrogen that is compressed to 350 bar, are accommodated on the roof of the Citaro bus. The latter’s top speed is 80 km/h. The electric motor and the automatic transmission are located in the rear of the bus.

In seven of the participating cities, the hydrogen will be produced at the filling stations themselves. In Madrid and Stuttgart, two steam reformers are being installed. Once complete, they will produce hydrogen from natural gas. In five other cities, filling stations are being outfitted with electrolysis equipment. The equipment will primarily use ‘green’ electricity from sources of renewable energy in order to produce the necessary amounts of hydrogen by splitting water into its component elements.

Reykjavik in Iceland provides the perfect location for this system: Because of the island’s geology, the citizens of Iceland already produce nearly all of their electricity at hydroelectric and geothermal power plants. The hydrogen produced by electrolysis will allow them to end their dependence on imported oil to fuel their vehicles in the future.

Water power will also be the source of energy used to produce hydrogen through electrolysis in Stockholm. The electricity for ‘Hamburg hydrogen’ will be produced by wind power plants that take advantage of the strong winds blowing through coastal regions. Barcelona will use solar energy, and Amsterdam will turn to an incineration plant to produce the electricity required by the electrolysis.

DaimlerChrysler board member Dr Eckhard Cordes said that urban bus transport was the ideal field for practically testing the fuel cell as a vehicle propulsion system. “I take pride in the fact that we have managed to develop the world’s first production vehicle featuring a fuel cell drive, on the basis of the Mercedes-Benz Citaro,” he added.

In 2001, DaimlerChrysler launched a cooperative venture with the Hamburg-based Hermes delivery service to test a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van with fuel cell drive in the customer’s everyday operations. After more than 16,000 kilometres, the experience gained exceeds the expectations of both engineers and customer. The simple, convenient operation and dynamic start-off characteristics have proved to be particularly convincing. Especially in urban traffic and stop-and-go delivery work, these qualities engender an excellent overall impression.

World Mayor 2023