A growing number of German public transportation companies are opting for hydrogen-powered buses with CO2 (R744) heat pumps, according to several recent statements from Polish bus manufacturer Solaris.

Lokale Nahverkehrsgesellschaft (LNVG), a local transport provider in the district of Groß-Gerau, just south of Frankfurt, is the most recent operator in Germany to place an order for Solaris’s Urbino hydrogen buses. Transportation operators in Essen, Duisburg and Düsseldorf have also ordered hydrogen buses from Solaris in recent months.

LNVG’s order comprises 15 standard-length Urbino 12 hydrogen buses and eight articulated Urbino 18 hydrogen buses. Both models include CO2 heat pumps as standard for efficient heating and air-conditioning, says Solaris on its website.

The company has told R744.com that the buses it will deliver to LNVG will be equipped with CO2 heat pumps from German manufacturer Konvekta. Each of Solaris’s Urbino 12 hydrogen buses will include one of Konvekta’s UL 500 heat pumps, while the larger Urbino 18 bus will use two of the heat pump units. Each unit can provide a maximum of 21kW (6TR) heating capacity and 25kW (7.1TR) cooling capacity, depending on ambient conditions, explained Solaris.

Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport, the investment in hydrogen-powered buses will help LNVG transition its entire fleet to zero emissions by 2030, explained Solaris.

“The Urbino 12 hydrogen and Urbino 18 hydrogen models are exceptionally environmentally-friendly vehicles that do not generate any polluting exhaust emissions at the point of use,” it added.

To support bus performance and energy use, each hydrogen vehicle will be fitted with Solaris’s high-power batteries. The manufacturer’s eSConnect system will help LNVG monitor and manage fleet performance and day-to-day operations.

Solaris expects to deliver the Urbino 12 models by the end of 2024 and the Urbino 18 buses by mid-2025.

Earlier in January, Solaris announced it had signed a contract with Ruhrbahn, a public transportation operator in the city of Essen, for 19 hydrogen buses, all of which contained CO2 heat pumps. In nearby Duisburg, transport provider Duisburger Verkehrsgesellschaft placed an order for 25 of Solaris’s hydrogen buses with CO2 heat pumps in July 2023.

“I am proud that we can be part of this significant change taking place in urban transportation in Duisburg,” said Olivier Michard, Board Member for Sales, Marketing and Aftersales at Solaris. “The implementation of safe, reliable and environmentally friendly hydrogen technology will further reduce emissions in the city. The only by-product of operating Urbino hydrogen buses is water vapor.”

Beyond Germany, Solaris’s Urbino hydrogen buses have also been ordered and delivered to clients in Austria, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

“I am proud that we can be part of this significant change taking place in urban transportation in Duisburg. The implementation of safe, reliable and environmentally friendly hydrogen technology will further reduce emissions in the city.

Olivier Michard, Solaris

CO2 heat pumps becoming commonplace

According to Konvekta, more than 60% of Germany’s electric buses in 2021 used its R744 heat pump systems. This includes Solaris’s Urbino 15 LE electric bus, which was launched in 2020.

In late 2023, the manufacturer’s CO2 heat pump thermal management system for electric double-decker buses was nominated for the Innovation Award at the Busworld Europe 2023 trade show. The device can provide both air-conditioning and heating using a fraction of the energy required by traditional mobile HVAC systems or electric heaters.

“To generate 100% heat, [our] double-decker CO2 heat pump requires only ⅓ operating power from the battery,” says Konvekta on its website. “Thus, compared to electric heating, ⅔ of the energy is saved. This significantly reduces operating costs and increases the range.”