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‘Significant milestone’ — Auckland Transport unveils NZ’s first hydrogen bus

Auckland is one step closer to having an emissions-free public transport system, with Auckland Transport today unveiling New Zealand’s first hydrogen fuel cell bus. 

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Phil Goff says the city will be trialling the bus to see how it runs and how much it will cost. Source: 1 NEWS

The bus, built in Christchurch for $1.175 million, will be on Auckland’s roads for the next two years as part of a trial. It will service the popular 70 route between Britomart and Botany in East Auckland, passing by the busy Panmure train station. 

Trials on the road — without passengers at first — will begin tomorrow.  

The bus was revealed this morning at the Ports of Auckland, where the bus will be refuelled, just as a damning report into the ports' health and safety practices was released. 

“This is a significant milestone in the journey to decarbonise Auckland’s public transport fleet and it will be on the road in the coming days,” Minister of Transport Michael Wood said today. 

Mayor Phil Goff said with transport making up 40 per cent of the city’s overall emissions, it was important for Auckland Council to take the lead.

“While our focus has been on electrification of vehicles and buses, it is important that we also explore the option of replacing diesel buses with hydrogen-powered vehicles,” he said. 

The trial will determine the bus’ operational performance and see how operating costs compare to similar diesel and electric buses.

“You put your nose under the exhaust pipe, the only thing that comes out of it is water, no emissions. It’s a success right from the start,” Goff said.

“But we’ll be looking at the comparable cost — the capital cost of creating a hydrogen bus and the cost of operating it.

“Like electric buses, hydrogen buses will be a lot cheaper to operate as well as being much friendlier about the environment.”

Goff said the buses could complement the city’s growing electric bus fleet.

Auckland Transport estimates fully transitioning to a zero-emission bus fleet, which would include EV and hydrogen buses, would cost between $150 million to $200 million.

The bus will be refuelled at the Ports of Auckland with green hydrogen.

“Refuelling in the future will be done next to a new electrolyser plant - producing green hydrogen here on site," Ports of Auckland’s Chief Executive Tony Gibson said.

Earlier this year, Auckland Council committed to stop buying new diesel buses from 2021, four years earlier than its initial target. 

Auckland Transport also expedited its zero-emissions target from its vehicle exhausts to 2030, from an earlier target of 2040, subject to council funding. The move came after a letter from several councillors to CEO Shane Ellison asking for the 2040 date to be “advanced considerably”.

Auckland Transport’s Darek Koper said by purchasing the hydrogen bus, it wanted to prove the vehicles could meet New Zealand’s needs “and to help in the development of hydrogen as a fuel”. 

However, Auckland is still behind European cities like Versailles, Cologne, Frankfurt, and Rotterdam, where fuel cell electric buses are already widely used.

The three-axle bus is Auckland Transport’s biggest single deck bus and fits 43 seated and 31 standing adults.

The trial will determine the bus’ operational performance and see how operating costs compare to similar diesel and electric buses.

Hydrogen fuel cells convert chemical energy into electrical energy through the movement of charged hydrogen ions, which generate current.