Electric Bus vs Hydrogen Bus: What Makes Them Different


Electric Bus vs. Hydrogen Bus

The limited petroleum fuel availability and increasing global harmful gas emissions have forced us to look for alternative ways of fuels for vehicles. In meeting fuel demand for vehicles, biofuels, batteries, and hydrogen-based fuels are being researched and are used to drive transportation. In 2023, more than 14 million electric vehicles are expected to be sold out while the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle market is expected to reach US$ 12,324.9 million by 2028.  However, the latest Italian study claims that Battery Electric Buses (BEBs) are more energy efficient (for tank to wheel considering) than Fuel Cell Electric Bus (FCEB) by 2-2.45 times. Tank to Wheel means energy consumption and emissions in vehicles from the point where fuel is stored to the point where it is used to propel the vehicle’s wheels.

This Italian study is based on data collected from 21 fuel cell and electric buses operating in The province of South Tyrol, Italy which has 535,000 inhabitants.  Out of 21 buses, 16 buses were Fuel Cell Electric Buses (12 Solaris Urbino 12 Hydrogen and 4 Mercedes O530 Citaro Fuel Cell Hybrid) and 5 were Battery Electric Buses (3 Solaris Urbino 12 Electric and 2 Solaris Urbino 18 Electric). The data was collected from these 21 buses between  January 2021 to April 2022 and the total distance covered by these buses was 537,586 km during this period. Let’s dive into Electric Bus vs Hydrogen Bus

A brief detail of these buses used for data collecting is available in the table below:

Parameter Solaris Urbino 12 Hydrogen  Mercedes O530 Citaro Fuel Cell Hybrid  Solaris Urbino 12 Electric   Solaris Urbino 12 Electric  
Available buses  12 4 3 2
Seats  Max. 39 + 4  31  Max. 39 + 4  49 + 8
Tank/battery capacity 37 kg H2  35 kg  H2  210 kWh Up to 300 kWh
Range [km]  up to 350 up to 250 up to 300  at least 200 
First production year  2019  2009 2013 2014
Energy efficiency [kWh/100 km]  310.24 335.75  137  153.8 
Running Cost  [€/km]  1.23  1.36 0.53  0.58


The authors have considered the following points in concluding the study

  • Distance covered by the fleet of these buses: which includes the distance covered by each bus model, the distance covered by type of line (line means urban, suburban), and the distance covered by each bus model with respect to the type of line. 
  • Energy efficiency: Tank-to-Wheel (TTW) for each bus model [kg H2/100 km, kWh/100 km] by assuming an Energy heating value of 33.33 kWh per 1 kg H2.
  • Economic performance: Refuelling and recharge costs [€] and Running costs per km [€/km]. 
  • Environmental performance: Reduction of CO2 emissions when replacing conventional buses with these buses [tons CO2 ].

Based on these four considerations, authors have concluded that Battery Electric Buses are 2 to 2.45 times more energy and economically efficient than Fuel Cell Electric Buses. The below table is for more details.

Parameter Solaris Urbino 12 Hydrogen  Mercedes O530 Citaro Fuel Cell Hybrid  Solaris Urbino 12 Electric   Solaris Urbino 12 Electric  
Distance covered by each model [km]  211,173  88,114  150,531  87,768 
Distance [%]  39 16 28 16
Fuel Consumed 18,848 kg H2  8706 kg H2  200,198 kWh  127,658 kWh 
Energy efficiency [kWh/100 km]  310.24  335.75  137  153.8 
Running Cost  [€/km]  1.23  1.36 0.53  0.58
CO2 savings: IC engines buses [tons CO2]  230.9  96.3 164.6 95.9


What is Battery Electric Bus and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus?

Battery Electric Bus is powered by batteries (Li-ion batteries most commonly). The battery installed on the bus is used to propel the motor to drive the wheels. The battery is charged at a charging station or through a pantograph installed at a bus stop.


Electric Bus Advantages

  • Low operating cost
  • Zero tailpipe emissions
  • Quiet Operation

Electric Bus Disadvantages

  • Long Charging time
  • High Initial cost
  • Limited Range

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Bus is powered by electricity generated from Fuel Cell to drive the motor installed on buses like battery electric buses. In a fuel cell, hydrogen from a pressurized tank is released in the presence of oxygen to generate electricity. Water is also produced as a byproduct. You can find advancements in hydrogen technology here 


Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus Advantages

  • Long Range
  • Fast Refueling
  • Zero tailpipe emissions

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus Disadvantages

  • Higher Operating Cost
  • Lack of Hydrogen Refueling Infrastructure
  • Maintenance Challenges

Top 5 Battery Electric Bus Companies Worldwide 

  1. Volvo Group – Sweden
  2. Hyundai Motor Company – South Korea
  3. BYD- China
  4. Tata Motors- India
  5. Proterra – USA

Read More: Top 10 Electric Bus Manufacturers in India 2023 | Electric Bus

 Top 5 Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus Companies Worldwide 

Electric Bus vs Hydrogen Bus: What Makes Them Different

  1. Safra- France
  2. Solaris Bus & Coach – Poland
  3. Mercedes-Benz – Germany
  4. Foton Motor – China
  5. Rampini – Italy


The content of this article is based on the research paper “Monitored data and social perceptions analysis of battery electric and hydrogen-fuelled buses in urban and suburban areas” published in the Journal of Energy Storage in 2023. Both Battery Electric Bus as well as Fuel Cell Electric bus-based technology are in the developing phase and are a way for green mobility. At present, production, transportation, and storage of hydrogen are challenging but work is being done to cater to the challenges. The same is true with battery technology which is being modified each day to reduce charge time and provide safety, and long range. Both technologies are going to dominate in the future to meet the demand for clean transportation.  

Read More:-  Is Hydrogen Fuel Cells will Replace Batteries in Electric Vehicles?

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