A team of researchers aims to educate people about the possibilities of hydrogen as a fuel by demonstrating the efficiency of fuel cells in two public transport buses that will operate in China’s North East. The University of Sunderland, UK, has joined forces with Shanghai’s Shen Li High Technology and local experts ComeSys Europe and AVID sustainable vehicles from Cramlington (Northumberland, England) to create ECO2Trans - the region’s first petrol-free passenger buses that will run on a fuel cell, battery and capacitor combination.

UK Regional Development Agency One North East has sponsored the £314,000 (US$525,000 approx.) project to convert the two Gulliver U500EUK buses bought from Mersey Travel in England, using expertise from leading edge companies in China, Germany and the UK.

Sunderland’s team is led by Dirk Kok and Adrian Morris from the Institute of Automotive and Manufacturing Advanced Practice (AMAP), who last year successfully adapted a Nissan Almera to run on hydrogen so that it only emits water from its exhaust.

The University of Sunderland is also looking to develop the next generation of engineers and technicians to put it at the forefront of green vehicle development.

“The visitors from Shen Li were here to help us understand the fuel cell operation, train us in its use and to help mount the fuel cell in the buses. Now, we want to get one fully driving, and one will be completely revamped with a new motor and new electrics,” says Kok.

“These vehicles will act as a test bed to evaluate novel hydrogen technologies in vehicles and will enhance the region’s status as an important automotive research and development center,” Kok says.