The Anonymous Widower

When It Comes To Buses, Will Hydrogen Or Electric Win?

The title of this post, is the same as that of this evcellent article on WIRED.

The WIRED article is a serious comparison between the merits of battery and hydrogen-powered buses.

The writer of the article talked to two people, who should know.

  • James Dixon, who is a Research Fellow in the Transport Studies Unit and Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University
  • Neil Collins, who is Managing Director of Wrightbus.

I think the philosophy of Wrightbus with four basic zero-carbon buses could be right.

This surely is a basis for satisfying customers, who like to buy what they feel is best for their networks and passengers.

This paragraph from the Wired article, illustrates how terrain and climate might favour one bus or the other.

Still, hydrogen may be a better option in a city with lots of hills, like Hong Kong, where it’s also very warm and humid, says Collins. “That’s going to be a problem for electric buses, because the cooling and the hills are just going to drain the batteries,” he says. “But if the city is relatively flat, and the journey times are relatively short, and it’s not either significantly warm or significantly cold, battery electric can do a very good job.”

In addition, you wouldn’t choose hydrogen buses, if supply of hydrogen was difficult.

Could this be why Jo Bamford, who is the owner of Wightbus, has established a company to help bus operators with the transition to hydrogen. I wrote about it in New Company Established To Help Transition Bus Fleets To Hydrogen.

I have also heard stories of garages in city centres, where it is not possible to get enough power to charge a garage full of battery buses. Some of these garages are in residential areas, which perhaps may not welcome tankers of hydrogen going through to supply the buses with hydrogen.

Perhaps, the solution for garages like this is to relocate the garage to a site, which fulfils one of these conditions.

  • Good connections to the motorway and trunk road network, so that hydrogen can be brought in by truck.
  • A high-capacity electricity supply to either charge battery electric buses or generate hydrogen using an electrolyser.

Buses would operate according to this daily cycle.

  • Buses would either be charged or refuelled with hydrogen overnight.
  • They would position to a convenient place to start their daily diagrams.
  • At the end of the day, they would return to the garage.


  1. Battery-electric buses may need to be topped-up during the day.
  2. Hydrogen buses with their longer range should be able to service routes further away.
  3. Routes would be arranged, so that hydrogen buses would not need to be topped up.

The big advantage of a remote bus garage is that the city centre site could be redeveloped to pay for the new buses and garage.


December 10, 2021 - Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , ,


  1. All round battery’s are more energy efficient as you have to input several units of energy to get one unit of hydrogen out and then fuel cells aren’t that efficient either. However, i get the point about certain operations would not lend themselves to all day use of battery buses so as you say both have there place currently.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | December 10, 2021 | Reply

  2. A friend who runs a large bus operation, said that the 640 mile range of the Wrightbus hydrogen single-decker would be incredibly useful.

    Comment by AnonW | December 10, 2021 | Reply

  3. As always, select the right vehicle for the job.

    Ultimately it seems UK gas network will change to hydrogen, in which case it should be possible to use piped gas in bus depots, with some local storage to smooth demand.

    I was impressed that route 46 (middle length very hilly up and down, single deck locals service) was successfully converted to BEV a few years ago with a Dennis/BYD singledeck (the depot is some distance off route too).

    Some routes really need a trolleybus (part or all), or en route charging. On some roads the overhead wires could be shared with battery electric short haul trucks. And a few well chosen tram routes or similar.

    Comment by Milest | December 11, 2021 | Reply

    • There is no doubt that trolley bus systems deal with the power issue but they need so much infrastructure to get up in the air and maintain that my view is maximum effort should be going into battery buses with some form of recharge via a pantograph system at the route termini so the bus can stay out all day.

      The biggest inhibitor imv to progressing forward is the worry about what it costs compared to existing technologies which fails to recognise that we are past that being a valid test. The operations need to be converted and fuel tax needs to be raised on petrol and diesel to pay for it otherwise we condemn our cities highly polluted with all the health impacts that creates.

      Comment by Nicholas Lewis | December 11, 2021 | Reply

      • What wired ignored in their article was what effect battery-electric trams will have in the long-term, as these can extend routes and be charged on sections run with overhead wires. The extension in Brum to Edgbaston must start running soon.

        Comment by AnonW | December 11, 2021

      • The new extension in Brum has been delayed ro early 2022 due to fiasco with the CAF trams needing welding repairs

        Comment by Nicholas Lewis | December 11, 2021

      • TfL has started a trial of a cheaper to run pantograph charged electric buses than hydrogen buses for Route 358 15 miles which is too long for depot charged electric buses
        The problem with trolley buses is nimbys can object to the sight of the overhead cables, I have read this was one of the reasons that one of the three councils pulled out of the West London Tramway.

        Comment by jason leahy | December 12, 2021

  4. What the article doesn’t mention is night buses which run 24/7, Go-Ahead G

    Comment by jason leahy | December 12, 2021 | Reply

    • Go-Ahead Group has ordered 20 Wrightbus hydrogen single decker buses, Martin Harris, Managing Director, Brighton & Hove and Metrobus ” We run services 24 hours a day with hilly terrain, heavy passenger loads and duty cycles well in excess of the national average at up to 370 miles per day “. The new Wrightbus hydrogen single decker buses range depending upon model upto 640 miles range and refills in 8 mins, new Wrightbus rapid charge electric single decker buses 300 mile range and 2.5 hrs to recharge with 150 kw charger. The 20 new Wrightbus hydrogen double decker buses in London carry passengers on the day bus Route 7 6.5 miles 5.30 am to midnight and night bus Route N7 15 miles midnight to 5.30 am. I have also read that several bus companies in the USA are having problems with the multiple hour recharge times of electric buses for some routes so I think the night buses in New York and LA probably carry passengers 24/7 and BBC News that buses travel 500 miles 24/7 between Singapore to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.

      Comment by jason leahy | December 12, 2021 | Reply

      • Certainly, some London garages are having trouble charging all the battery buses. Hydrogen would allow buses to be garaged further out and buses in. There is also a driver shortage in London, which could be helped by hydrogen buses, as drivers wouldn’t have to hang around, whilst buses were charged.

        I used to be a scheduling expert and my software was used to program all sorts of tricks with labour in bringing home North Sea Oil.

        Comment by AnonW | December 12, 2021

      • Doubt drivers hang around while there buses recharge as they match their duty lengths and swap the buses over part way through the day. Hydrogen has its place for sure but its never going to be as energy efficient as batteries but it has the advantage of portability and can be produced at locations where energy is readily available. We need to accepts its not a one size fits all and all credit to Wrightbus for providing multiple solutions to operators. Ultimately it doesn’t matter which solution is chosen as they both deliver zero emissions at the tailpipe which is most important issue for our cities.

        Comment by Nicholas Lewis | December 12, 2021

    • I would have thought hydrogen would be ideal for 24/7. Look at a route like London and Oxford, which has in the past had a very busy bus service.

      There would just need to be a hydrogen filling station somewhere near one of the ends and they fill up twice a day.

      Comment by AnonW | December 12, 2021 | Reply

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