The South Australian Government  has started what it is describing as a ground-breaking, two-year hydrogen bus trial involving two vehicles based at the Morphettville bus depot  which will be deployed on routes across Adelaide from late August.

The first of the new hydrogen buses has already arrived in Adelaide,  and has been wrapped in a striking green.

Bus operator Torrens Transit will begin internal testing of the two Foton Hydrogen Fuel Cell Buses in collaboration with Foton Mobility, BOC gases and H2H Energy,  with the trial buses operating from  the Morphettville depot, before  they will be released for operation.

The SA Government says that hydrogen fuel cell technology significantly reduces fuel use and environmental impact buses (HFCB) represent a rapidly emerging, green alternative technology.

SA Transport minister Tom Koutsantouris said that the ground-breaking trial of two hydrogen buses, which demonstrate the real-world application of South Australia’s investment in hydrogen technology through the Hydrogen Jobs Plan as well as the HFCBs  the government has also invested in hydrogen  for its rail services.

“This innovative trial will place South Australia as an Australian leader in applying hydrogen technology across our public transport network. The hydrogen buses will be fuelled with the assistance of the Tonsley Innovation Facility,” said the Minister.

“The State Government will continue to work with partners and stakeholders to adopt any technology and develop solutions that reduce emissions and provide a superior passenger experience,” he said.

“We will leave no stone unturned in the quest to employ cleaner, greener and more efficient technologies across the public transport system that help achieve net zero emissions by 2050 – or even earlier,” he concluded.

Michael McGee, the CEO of Transit Systems which is the company that will operate the hydrogen buss on trial said the  company committed to relentless investment into researching green technology, while having the expertise and knowledge to deploy efficient change to decarbonise public transport.

“These hydrogen buses are a perfect example of this, as we are bringing our global experience from operating hydrogen buses in London to the streets of South Australia,” McGee said.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to incorporate the Premier’s vision to turn South Australia into a world-class producer, user and exporter of hydrogen. This vision is critical to help combat climate change and transform South Australia’s industry into a major global player in the renewable energy market,” he added.

“These hydrogen buses will utilise hydrogen that has been proudly produced at the Tonsley Innovation District. This trial will exploit innovative local supply chain solutions, gauge the economic benefits of renewable energy and harness local talent as part of the South Australian Government’s pioneering work to support local industry into a green future,” he added.

The SA Government said that the HFCB trials and fleet implementations are increasingly occurring across public transport networks globally from London to Beijing and Cologne – which has a similar population size to Adelaide.

It added that the benefits of hydrogen-powered vehicles over battery electric buses include faster refuelling and greater range, which may be critical to delivering services to the outer metro areas and into the regions and that hydrogen complements battery electric vehicle technology by providing a viable cleaner, greener, emissions-free technology that can power buses, trains or other heavy vehicles carrying heavy loads.

As well as the the  hydrogen bus trial the SA Government has implements a new hybrid train system which it says offers a better customer experience – particularly at Adelaide Railway Station – where the train engine can remain off, reducing noise and pollution for those on board and in the station.

It says that the rail trial complements its commitment to embrace hybrid and fully electric solutions on Adelaide’s bus fleet, with South Australia’s first full battery electric bus already being tested, along with 24 electric hybrid buses already in operation.

The SA government said that hydrogen fuel carries significantly more energy than the equivalent weight of batteries, which  it says is important as it evaluates future technology options, including powering trains on its Belair, Outer Harbor lines and Grange and Port Dock connections.

The government says that Initial testing of the prototype hybrid-diesel railcar is progressing well, with a second railcar fitted with a new Energy Storage and Recovery System. These railcars have been coupled together and the testing of the two-car train set is now underway. This two-car train set is the first of 44 diesel railcars expected to be fitted with the hybrid system, with the trains to run on the Outer Harbor, Grange and Belair lines.

This new system works by storing kinetic energy generated when the train brakes to an onboard battery, converting it into electrical energy to power normal train operations – decreasing stress on the engine and fuel consumption by approximately 16 per cent.

The battery will also be used instead of the diesel engine to supply auxiliary loads (power for lighting and air-conditioning, for example) at the train platform within Adelaide Railway Station to reduce noise, emissions and air pollution, with the first train is expected to be introduced into passenger service in coming weeks.

Installation of the Energy Storage and Recovery System on the remaining trains will be progressively rolled out, with all trains expected to be in passenger service with the new system by mid-2024. Once fully installed, Adelaide Metro will save an estimated 2,400 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

Adelaide Metro also continues to make significant steps towards a zero-emissions future across its bus fleet, with testing of the state’s first full battery electric bus already well underway. As well as being better for the environment, full battery electric buses offer a range of benefits for passengers. They offer more space and better comfort and accessibility, while eliminating noise and fuel-based pollution.

A further five full-battery electric buses are on order, pending the results of this trial underlining Adelaide Metro’s committment to transitioning to a zero-emissions public transport system to support the State Government’s net zero emissions by 2050 target.