Insight@DCU part of the drive behind Ireland’s first ever zero emissions hydrogen bus trial

Submitted on Tuesday, 08/12/2020

Insight and DCU are key academic partners in the trial of the first ever zero emissions hydrogen powered bus on the island of Ireland, under a strategic initiative to develop next generation technologies for environmentally sustainable transport.

The collaborative innovative trial with industrial, commercial and academic partners is focused on researching, testing and developing hydrogen as a viable, sustainable low emission solution for transport. DCU is also exploring the potential of the island of Ireland to become an early leader in next generation environmental technologies.

The single decker hydrogen fuel cell bus, built by Caetano was launched in early November in conjunction with key stakeholders including the Department of Transport, CIE, BOC, TFI, HMI, Dublin Airport, Toyota, Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus. The Caetano H2 “City Gold” prototype is in operation on various routes around Dublin city and commuter routes. This week, the bus will operate on a route taking in the university’s Glasnevin, All Hallows and St Patrick’s campuses between today and Wednesday, December 9th.

The bus operates on hydrogen produced from electricity and water to power it on routes around Dublin city and into neighbouring Meath. The fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) is refueled in minutes and very good range, similar to a conventional bus however its electric motive power is produced when the Hydrogen atoms (the fuel) are combined with oxygen from the air in its Toyota Fuel Cell.

Dr James Carton, Assistant Professor in Sustainable Energy and Hydrogen Technology at DCU and also co-founder of HMI and Hydrogen Ireland Association, is deeply involved in spearheading the research and analysis of the data from the bus and disseminating valuable information from the trial to enable the further rollout of zero-emission transport.

Together with the Smart DCU team at the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics, the DCU team have equipped the hydrogen bus with state of the art IoT (internet of things) sensors from Ambisense, Vtag, The Convex Lens, Vodafone & XR8Solutions that will gather information on environmental and location data as the bus navigates the city.

One sensor suite, HaLo, combines powerful low power computers, sensors and radios, ‘learns’ about the environment it is in and then sends an alert over its long range radio when it detects route or environmental variation. In this instance the system is looking at the movement, acceleration, deceleration and tilt of the bus as it is driven along its route. Exceptional events are visualised on smart devices connected to a visualisation platform. This valuable pool of data will be analysed by the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics at DCU to provide key insights on managing future fleets of low emission vehicles.

It is anticipated that this zero-emissions hydrogen bus will provide significant data sets, including data to understand the life cycle of the hydrogen production and use in transport and the eventual development of a supply chain with partners to provide green hydrogen to decarbonise much of our bus and train fleets as well as heavy goods vehicles.

Professor Daire Keogh, the President of DCU said,

“The H2 Bus trial is an example of DCU’s commitment to active collaborations with industry partners and other stakeholders to develop solutions to major global challenges like climate change. By collecting and analysing data from the trial, DCU researchers will greatly improve our understanding of how this technology performs in the real world. I hope this work will take us a step closer to making the widespread introduction of zero-emission public transport a reality in our towns and cities.”

Dr James Carton, Assistant Professor in Energy Sustainability & Hydrogen,

“This trial was conceived by ourselves in DCU over a year ago and took much coordination and effort from all partners to get us to this stage, having Ireland’s first Hydrogen bus running on Irish roads using fuel produced in Ireland. We will learn so much on this short trial, from training drivers, to setting up production and refueling safely, to engaging with the public. This is only the first step on a long road to full decarbonisation of our transport fleet.”

Samantha Fahy, Sustainability Manager, DCU remarked,

“DCU is committed to the development and implementation of sustainable solutions and hydrogen will certainly have its part to play in providing a solution to reducing GHG emissions within the transport sector, particularly for large passenger vehicles and trucks. This pilot will not only demonstrate the efficacy of the hydrogen bus solution, but will also examine the public acceptability and engagement with such innovative solutions. Informing and engaging the general public on the challenges of climate change and the need to move to low/no carbon solutions is essential to ensure such solutions are embraced and implemented.”

Prof Noel O’Connor, CEO of the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics said,

“Decarbonisation of transport is an important step towards full carbon neutrality. Trials such as this are essential to pave the way for a smooth transition to a cleaner form of public transport. A successful trial requires buy-in and cooperation from a broad range of stakeholders reflecting the need for a trans-disciplinary approach to this global challenge. Dr Carton has done an excellent job of bringing together a diverse range of collaborators so that we can collectively maximise our learnings from this exciting initiative.”

This latest project follows on from DCU’s role in providing their Glasnevin campus as a test-bed to trial next generation technology solutions for the micro-mobility industry and also builds further on their commitment to sustainability and to environmentally friendly solutions to combat the challenge of climate change.

DCU is also an active participant and supporter of the Smart Dublin concept, spearheaded by Dublin City Council to future-proof the city and region by trialing and scaling solutions to meet challenges in the areas of environment, digital, economy, government and quality of life.