Mercedes-Benz has promoted the use of fuel-cell hybrid buses around the world over the past nine years. The automaker conducted a pair of public transit trials from 2003 through 2009 using the Mercedes-Benz Citaro. PostAuto Schweiz AG is the first transit operator in the world to utilize the next-generation Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid, which boosts fuel efficiency while reducing curb weight from the original Citaro. The deployment of five Citaro FuelCELL Hybrids in Brugg, Switzerland advances the Clean Hydrogen in European Cities (CHIC) project developed by the European Commission. Mercedes-Benz has become the leading automaker for fuel-cell buses thanks to nearly a decade of work in Europe.
The Mercedes-Benz Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid enhances performance from the first-generation Citaro based on stack size, fuel economy and range. The original Citaro used a diesel engine as a generator for the electric motor. The Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid uses a 35kg fuel-cell stack to generate power for a 120kW motor, eliminating diesel emissions from the equation. The next-generation hydrogen stack uses seven tanks rather than nine thanks to increased fuel economy. Mercedes-Benz notes that the fuel cells can function up to 12,000 operating hours based on early testing. Transit operators can expect this model to travel up to 155 miles between refueling stops.
PostAuto Schweiz AG should provide a significant test to the Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid’s advanced drive system. Subsidiary operator Voegtlin-Meyer AG will use the fuel-cell hybrids to traverse busy thoroughfares, back roads and hilly climbs throughout Brugg. The FuelCELL Hybrid drive system has been designed to withstand broad temperature ranges, high elevations and frequent starts and stops. This operator is also handling the installation of refueling stations, storage and maintenance over the next five years. The initial testing phase will be largely funded by Aargau Canton using $1.6 million drawn from the Swisslos lottery.
The CHIC project encourages transit operators throughout the European Union to swap out diesel buses for hybrid models. Transit operators in five major European cities will work with automakers to deploy 26 fuel-cell hybrid buses in the next five years. Mercedes-Benz has been the primary beneficiary of the CHIC project during two road tests called CUTE and HyFleet: CUTE.
The automaker delivered 36 Citaro buses to 12 transit agencies in Europe and the Americas during these tests. The next-generation Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid benefits from the knowledge accrued over 1.4 million miles, 140,000 hours and nine years of testing. The European Commission and constituent governments have pushed Mercedes-Benz to improve their commercial vehicles by developing markets for early adoption.
Public transit agencies around the world are facing a significant problem managing increased ridership with smaller budgets. This conundrum would seem to preclude acquisition of fuel-cell hybrids as well as refueling infrastructure to replace current fleets. The European Union has taken the lead in promoting solutions to emissions created by public transportation.
The CHIC project is not a top-down dictate from a regional government that automakers and transit agencies must get greener. Mercedes-Benz has recognized that fuel-cell technology not only builds the company’s green image but allows the company to receive grants for research and development.