The Anonymous Widower

Ricardo To Engineer Zero Emission Buses For UK’s First Hydrogen Transport Hub

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article from Ricardo.

This is the first paragraph.

As part of its mission to support the decarbonisation of the global transport and energy sectors Ricardo, a world-class environmental, engineering and strategic consulting company, has announced that it has received Government funding to create a retrofit hydrogen fuel cell bus demonstrator for the UK’s first hydrogen transport hub in the north-east of England.

The market for refitting buses with hydrogen power is large, as this sentence from the press release shows.

There are 38,000 buses in service in the UK: 98% are diesel powered; and 50% are less than eight years old.

And that’s just the UK!

The last paragraph sums up Ricardo’s ambitions.

Ricardo will develop a scalable, modular solution, enabling it to be installed, with minimal adaption, to multiple single and double decker platforms. The modular concept may also be saleable as a ‘new fuel cell’ module to coach builders across the European Union enabling them to develop new fuel cell
buses by taking a rolling chassis and applying their coach build body alongside the fuel cell module solution.

Never underestimate Ricardo!


August 18, 2021 - Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , ,


  1. I generally hold Ricardo’s projects with the highest regard.
    However, one cannot but help recall that Hydrogen is more than somewhat flammable, by nature.

    McLaren Automotive’s road cars are equipped with Ricardo engines (; McLaren has ongoing problems with some of their road cars self-immolating – .

    One trusts that this hydrogen bus project does not follow suit.

    Comment by Robin St.Clair | August 18, 2021 | Reply

    • Nearly every diesel engine in the world takes advantage of a string of Ricardo patents.

      Comment by AnonW | August 18, 2021 | Reply

      • Ricardo are definitely highly regarded but let’s not get carried away with their position in this market, they’re the smallest of the big automotive engineering/engine combustion consultants.
        Admittedly I’m not sure what Ricardo’s modular system consists of but if Cummins and the other manufacturers of combustion ignition engines have viable hydrogen fuelled solutions within the same timescale, why would you want to throw away most of the conventional drive train and replace it with all of the peripheral thermal and associated fuel cell control systems etc? Surely that would be more expensive in material and conversion costs.

        Comment by fammorris | August 18, 2021

  2. […] their fuel cell approach to convert modern diesel buses to hydrogen, which I wrote about in Ricardo To Engineer Zero Emission Buses For UK’s First Hydrogen Transport Hub, I am sure we’re going to see thousands of modern buses converted to hydrogen […]

    Pingback by Could London’s New Routemaster Buses Be Converted To Hydrogen Power? « The Anonymous Widower | August 18, 2021 | Reply

  3. London already had Hydrogen buses running on RV1 route for years – what did they learn from that and why didn’t they roll it out.

    the wider issue is until green hydrogen production is massively increased the only benefit we are going to gain is cleaner air in the cities but at the expense of greater pollution somewhere else which looks like NE England.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 18, 2021 | Reply

    • If I remember correctly, London placed the order for the hydrogen double deckers before Wrightbus went bus because they were supporting some crackpot church.

      This post from May 2019 describes London’s original plan.

      London To Have World-First Hydrogen-Powered Double-Decker Buses

      It mentions bus number 7, which is now a hydrogen bus route.

      Wrightbus went bust in early 2020, so it looks like religion was responsible for the late arrival of London’s hydrogen buses.

      Comment by AnonW | August 18, 2021 | Reply

      • Creating green hydrogen at scale is a massive issue. Its takes c40% more energy input in electrolysis to get 1 unit worth of hydrogen energy out. Then you have the storage issues of high pressure gas needs a lot of energy to manufacture the cylinders to hold it. The reality is there is no panacea here anymore than there is with batteries. Short of mankind scaling but its energy usage the only real answer is nuclear and govt just need to get on with building more of those and telling people as it is.

        Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 18, 2021

  4. You generate the hydrogen offshore with the electrolysers on gas rigs over depleted gas fields. The hydrogen is piped to the shore using existing infrastructure and you can store excess hydrogen in the former gas field.

    I’ve seen advocates of this technology saying it’s more affordable as HVDC links are very expensive.

    Comment by AnonW | August 18, 2021 | Reply

    • For sure it seems a good re use of the platforms but how much hydrogen can be manufactured per day off an oil rig filled up with electrolysers I wonder. To look at the scale of the issues London bus fleet would need 97000 Tonnes of Hydrogen pa or c 265T/day. This is easily transported by a pipeline system but would need 60-70 of the biggest electrolysers current being made by ITM power with a power input of 600-700MW of energy which is 2-3GW wind farm to allow for variability although maybe further offshore it would be less due to higher wind. Then you would have to factor in wind lulls which do happen in North Sea so need a buffer storage as well. I can’t see a single oil rig platform could deliver this amount of useable space. For sure a determined effort like we’ve seen on batteries and solar panel manufacturing would lead to improvements but your bumping up against physics with energy input to create hydrogen. My take is we left this part too late and whilst its got a part to play we will need to electrify alot more public transport by going back to trolley buses and more light rail. Only nuclear is immediately available to fill the energy gap if we are to keep lowering emissions.

      Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 18, 2021 | Reply

      • If we go nuclear we must steer clear of Big Nuclear with all its problems and go for farms of small modular reactors.

        Comment by AnonW | August 18, 2021

      • I broadly agree with the thrust of your argument, while hydrogen has its place the inefficiencies of its production (both physical and economic) will be hard to overcome in the short term. Frankly I’m always surprised we don’t hear more about nuclear as a means of production.
        What worries me is that the Government’s Hydrogen Strategy Report published only the other day seems full of wishful thinking with too many assumptions without providing much in the way of thought out evidence based information – and lots of blue Hydrogen.

        Comment by fammorris | August 19, 2021

  5. Everybody knocks blue hydrogen, but I have a feeling that carbon capture and usage might make it feasible.

    In the East of England and Scotland, a lot of carbon dioxide will be fed to soft fruit, tomatoes and salads to make them grow better.

    But, I also feel that innovative chemists will find ways of turning it into useful products. An Australian firm is claiming it can make building blocks.

    Comment by AnonW | August 19, 2021 | Reply

    • Another thing that came to my mind was the rapid scaling up of turbo alternator sets from 30MW to 660MW in under 30 years in the middle part of the 20th C so I agree that electrolysers could achieve the same increase. That was driven by an insatiable demand for electricity and a ready made fuel source under the ground of course.

      Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 19, 2021 | Reply

    • Not sure how you’re defining Blue Hydrogen, Blue Hydrogen does involve carbon capture and storage. If there’s no carbon capture it’s called Grey Hydrogen.
      The Johnson Matthey link is useful.
      There’s also a colour reference for nuclear plant hydrogen production which seems to be be sort of pink/mauve depending on which source you refer to.

      Comment by fammorris | August 19, 2021 | Reply

      • Blue hydrogen can include carbon capture and usage!

        Comment by AnonW | August 19, 2021

  6. I certainly believe that wind turbines and electrolysers will get bigger and will be more robust. It’s just the way of engineering, where everything gets bigger and more efficient.

    Comment by AnonW | August 19, 2021 | Reply

    • Well not everything, some things get smaller 😉

      Comment by fammorris | August 19, 2021 | Reply

    • Using the CO2 and even catalysing it is of course practical. The one idea that intrigues me is its use in producing algae to trap yet more CO2 from the atmosphere.

      Comment by fammorris | August 19, 2021 | Reply

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