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Metrodecker H2: Hydrogen fuel cell double deck bus made in UK

Hydrogen fuel cell buses offer a zero-emission “drop-in” replacement for diesel buses. They are especially suited to busy, long-distance, high-capacity routes and complement the use of battery electric buses on shorter routes.

The Metrodecker H2 hydrogen bus product is built on the proven Optare Metrodecker EV platform. It incorporates a hydrogen fuel cell powerpack developed by Arcola Energy as a direct replacement for the battery powerpack in the Metrodecker EV. It can carry more than 90 passengers with a range of between 200 and 250 miles depending on specification and route.

Collaborative project for a new lightweight, low cost composite system
This bus currently in operation is using a heavy metal structure for the hydrogen fuel cells. Permali, the composite manufacturer, has won the UK Government funding to develop a lightweight composite solution that will allow existing diesel-powered buses to be retrofitted with zero-emission hydrogen powertrains.

The objective is to rapidly develop an affordable green technology alternative that can accelerate the ability for the UK to meet its net zero emissions target.

The funding has been awarded by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) through the Niche Vehicle Network (NVN). The Permali R & D team, located at the company’s main site in Gloucester, will be working on this development project in collaboration with leading hydrogen and fuel cell specialist company Arcola Energy and the UK National Composites Centre (NCC). The partnership project is initially aimed at buses, but the new technology concept should be transferable to a wider range of vehicles, such as heavy-duty goods vehicles, trains and even aircraft.

Permali will work in close collaboration with the NCC to design and manufacture the proof of concept system. Arcola Energy will integrate and test the system with the hydrogen cylinders to achieve regulatory compliance and fit the new system to a double decker bus. The NCC approached Permali knowing their extensive experience in handling complex projects and proven track record in the F1 automotive, aerospace, defence, rail and energy sectors as a highly responsive provider of advanced materials solutions. 

The project focus for Permali will be on the development and production of a low-cost, lightweight composite system which will structurally support the hydrogen fuel cylinders. The target for the Permali development team is to halve the weight of the current metallic hydrogen fuel tank structure and to increase energy storage by 25%, while still providing the required structural performance to meet the vehicle road safety standards.  

Fraser Rankin, Sales & Marketing Director, Permali
Fraser Rankin, Sales & Marketing Director, Permali commented:

“This is a fantastic win for Permali demonstrating the ability to create an innovative solution within a short time frame and to the complexity of the project requirements. Our dedicated and loyal team have been instrumental in the funding win and I’m excited to see Permali’s influence on a breakthrough project which contributes towards the UK’s carbon neutral goal.”

The hydrogen fuel cell powertrain in the Metrodecker H2 already in circulation is part of a family of products developed by Arcola Energy over the past ten years for a wide range of uses including lightweight cars, trucks, off-highway vehicles, buses and trains.

Dr Ben Todd, CEO of Arcola Energy
Dr Ben Todd, CEO of Arcola Energy said:

“The innovative structural design of Optare buses makes them ideally suited to housing zero emission powertrains; and most importantly, to producing buses which we believe will be the safest, most efficient and easiest to maintain in their class“.


Graham Belgum, CEO of Optare Group Ltd
Graham Belgum, CEO of Optare Group Ltd commented:

“We believe fuel cell technology has the potential to complement Optare’s award winning battery electric vehicle range.  We look forward to working closely with Arcola to increase our understanding of the technology and its performance in service.  We can see applications for fuel cells on inter urban routes in temperate climates and in high ambient environments where air conditioning is essential and energy consumption is high”.

Companies: Arcola Energy, Optare PLC,

Industries: Automotive and Road Transportation

Terms: Innovations

This article has been edited by Basalt.Today
This article has been written on JEC Composites Magazine
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