Gathering experience with new drive concepts and technologies is a guiding principle for the vehicle strategy in area of buses at Stuttgart public transport operator Stuttgarter Straßenbahnen AG (SSB). The company is continuously testing new technologies in cooperation with vehicle manufacturers and also invests in innovative vehicle technology itself.
Its goal to deploy fuel cell hybrid buses on the new bus route 70 between Plieningen and the airport by the end of 2013 has taken a decisive step forward. On 17 December 2012, Dr. Veit Steinle of the Federal Ministry for Transport handed over the funding agreement to Stuttgart’s Lord Mayor and Chairman of the SSB Board, Dr. Wolfgang Schuster.
Total funding volume of the project entitled »SPresso« (Stuttgarter Praxiserprobung von wasserstoffbetriebenen Omnibussen — Stuttgart practical testing of hydrogen-run buses) amounts to approx. 3.2 million euros. These funds cover around 50 % of total costs for the test project earmarked to run for three years (until mid-2016). The project costs include the procurement of three fuel cell hybrid buses, workshop expenditures, training measures, technical consultation and adaptation of the hydrogen filling station for bus operations.
To date, SSB has made positive experiences with both fuel cell and hybrid buses (SSB currently deploys five diesel hybrid buses). With the integration of fuel cell hybrid buses for scheduled services, SSB aims to test, for example, how refuelling of the vehicles using a combination of hybrid technology and energy from hydrogen is possible during scheduled services without needing to establish an additional filling station infrastructure at the depot. The public hydrogen filling station is currently located at Stuttgart airport.
The overall goal is to examine and enhance the practical suitability of fuel cell drive technology for local bus services. Only with such tests can empirical values concerning the real potential to protect resources be generated and thereby — through a holistic and sustainable approach — be in a position to make qualified statements regarding which drive is best for what type of deployment.