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‘CUTE’ buses bring fuel cell-powered transport to London

On 16 December 2003, transport authorities in London received three fuel cell-powered buses as part of the European Union’s CUTE (Clean Urban Transport for Europe) project. The city will operate the buses on a central route beginning in January 2004.

Image: Fuel Cell Today

London is one of ten cities participating in the CUTE project, which will see 30 Mercedes-Benz Citaro fuel cell buses put into service over two years. The other cities are Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hamburg, Luxembourg, Madrid, Porto, Reykjavik, Stockholm and Stuttgart. Apart from Porto, all the other cities have now received their vehicles.

The buses are equipped with Ballard 205 kW fuel cell engines and will be driven by regular transit bus drivers, carrying passengers in daily service in each city.

"Ballard is proud to be powering the largest fleet of fuel cell buses in the world today," said Dennis Campbell, the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer. "Hundreds of thousands of people will have the opportunity to experience first-hand the clean, quiet and comfortable ride of these zero-emission buses.”

Hydrogen power rush

The CUTE project brings the world another step closer to a global hydrogen economy, a notion that has attracted scientists, engineers, clean-energy advocates, and environmentalists for more than a century.

A pure hydrogen economy would use hydrogen for both stationary and transportation applications, and even for portable applications, replacing the electric batteries powering many of our portable electronic devices.

Most of today's investment in hydrogen power for transportation has been concentrated on ‘proton exchange membrane’ (PEM) fuel cells because of their almost instant start-up, high power density, and relative durability. Areas of potential application include not only buses and cars but eventually trucks, ships, and rail locomotives.

In practice, experts say, a mixed economy of both hydrogen and fossil fuels is likely to be with us for at least several decades.