Public Transportation Revolution: From CUTE to CHIC
In an effort to create energy efficient, environmentally clean public transportation systems, Europe has spent the last decade testing fuel cell electric buses that utilize hydrogen fuel cells in lieu of traditional diesel. The Clean Hydrogen in European Cities (CHIC) project is the latest and most exciting development in this sector, but it was preceded by the Clean Urban Transport for Europe (CUTE) and the HyFleet: CUTE, two highly successful programs that have worked to lay the foundation for a revolution in the European public transportation system.
Exploring CHIC’s Origins: CUTE
The original CUTE project started with only a few units, but in just two years it expanded to 27 buses across 8 European cities, including Hamburg, London, Stockholm, Porto, Barcelona, Stuttgart, Luxembourg, Madrid and Amsterdam. Overall, this first incarnation of CUTE ran from 2001 to 2006, and the project was deemed a success, paving the way for the next incarnation: HyFleet. This second project was responsible for 33 new and improved buses with updated internal combustion engines. On a whole, it garnered even more public support for the program, operating in 9 cities around the world.
The Future of CHIC
After the wild success of the CUTE and HyFleet:CUTE programs, the push to commercialize fuel cell electric buses began, and CHIC was born. The project spans 14 European regions and is funded via a joint partnership between the European Union’s Fuel Cell Hydrogen Joint Undertaking and the European Commission, with a projected budget of € 1.4 billion in total for the period between 2014 and 2020.
During the start-up phase, CHIC has operated 37 buses in the same regions as the CUTE programs, as these areas are already accustomed to, and have some of the infrastructure in place for, hydrogen-based transport. Phase one expands operations from Cologne, Berlin and Whistler to London, Oslo, Aargau, Bolzano, and Milan with 26 additional buses. Phase two will complete the expansion, although the exact targeted regions have not yet been nailed down. In total, the CHIC program is expected to function in 14 different regions across Europe.
Throughout each phase, project implementers will be gathering a plethora of data, using this to further fine tune the project’s future. Ultimately, CHIC’s success will have a dramatic impact on the environment: fuel-cell busses only emit water vapour, unlike their diesel counterparts, which pump carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and other contaminates into the atmosphere. The CHIC project includes a few technology improvents compared to HyFleet:CUTE: the buses are a little smaller, with an up to 50% improvement in fuel efficiency and quicker refueling times. The buses now also feature regenerative braking, where some of the energy used for braking is recovered and fed back into the batteries to run the buses.
CHIC is being rolled out in a few phases:
Phase “0” consists of regions with previous experience and knowledge with hydrogen based transport, which may be seen as leaders, teachers of CHIC. The regions of Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin in Germany and Whistler, Canada which have a total of about 37 fuel cell buses operating.
Phase 1 includes regions such as Aargau, Bolzano, Milan, London and Oslo, all seen as natural targets in order to take the next step towards commercialization. There is at least 26 fuel cell buses operating in total spread across these regions.
Phase 2 includes future expansion targets, about 14 across all of Europe. Specific targets have all expressed a substantial desire to get involved in the future of fuel cell buses.
Given the success of the CUTE programs and the excitement regarding participation in the CHIC program, there’s no reason this newest European endeavor will be met with anything less than astounding success. This program is evidence that hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells are a part of the future of transportation.
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