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  • Writer's pictureZest Associates

Beyer considers how buses can kickstart MENA's hydrogen economy

Hydrogen-powered buses can be an early stimulant to the hydrogen economy by using public procurement to guarantee offtake and boost bankability, scaling up demand in tandem with supply

Zest's Managing Director Jeffrey Beyer presented at the Conference on Clean Buses in MENA on 6 February, 2023.

His presentation considered the role that hydrogen-powered buses can play in decarbonizing the transport sector whilst helping to kickstart nascent hydrogen markets.

How buses address key barriers to the hydrogen economy

  • Matching supply and demand: A key challenge to activating the hydrogen economy is matching gradually increasing supply with demand. While countries have ambitions to produce gigawatts of hydrogen, the market will start with megawatts, and those projects need right-sized offtakers along the way. As relatively small users, hydrogen bus fleets can gradually be procured to match demand with supply in a step-wise, predictable way, soaking up demand as it comes online.

  • Bankability: Hydrogen producers are challenged to find longterm offtakers for their hydrogen, which threatens the bankabilty of their projects. Municipalities and can choose to buy hydrogen-powered buses, which have lifetimes of about 15 years. These ensure guaranteed volumes of hydrogen demand (offtake) over a reasonable time horizon, underpinned by a government, which boosts the bankability of projects.

  • Public procurement: Municipal governments often procure bus fleets, while national governments are responsible for implementing hydrogen strategies. Government should coordinate across levels, using municipal procurement as a leverage point to activate the national plan, showing joined-up, strategic thinking.

  • Building confidence through specific strategies: Governments have an opportunity to specifically outline the role that hydrogen is likely to play in achieving transport-sector decarbonisation objectives. This would build confidence in the market for investors and developers by specifying an early use-case for hydrogen that is under the control of the government.

Electric versus hydrogen

While electrification of bus transport removes tailpipe emissions, it relies on a decarbonised grid to secure full emission reductions. Electric buses also have heavy batteries (up to 20% of the weight of the bus), long recharging cycles (up to 6 hours), limited range (less than 200km), and can require extensive en-route infrastructure upgrades.

By contrast, buses powered by green hydrogen can secure deep and immediate decarbonisation. They are also lighter, have fast refuelling times (less than 15 minutes), extended ranges (350km) and require limited upgrades for depot or terminal refuelling infrastructure.

About the Conference on Clean Buses in MENA

The Conference on Clean Buses in MENA discussed key initiatives in decarbonising public transport in MENA region, plans, policies, programmes and funding to transition to a clean and zero-emission bus fleet, opportunities in deployment of electric and hydrogen-fuelled buses and related infrastructure, the way forward for public transport authorities and public transport operators, best practices in transitioning to a zero-emission bus fleet, experience so far and the lessons learned. It was hosted by Global Mass Transit.


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