Cologne is the largest city of North Rhine Westphalia, with more than 1 million inhabitants, and the fourth most populated city in Germany. Similar to other European cities, Cologne is working on sustainable mobility solutions to tackle the growing issues of congestion, CO2 emissions, noise and local air pollution. Cologne is a signatory of the Covenant of Mayors, and has engaged in a 20% reduction of its CO2 emissions and a 20% increase in energy efficiency and in use of renewable energy sources by 2020 compared to its 1990 levels. Key measures taken by the municipality include the implementation of a Low Emission Zone in the city centre (in place since 2008) and the promotion of inter modality with a focus on cycling & walking. One of the key priorities of the climate protection measures programme, adopted in 2014, is the integration of low carbon and ultra-low carbon vehicles in the bus fleet.

RVK and HyCologne

Regional Verkehr Köln (RVK) is the public transport operator in the region of Cologne and covers app. 4.5 million inhabitants. The company was founded in 1976 and has a fleet of 290 own buses and approx. 415 buses by order of RVK.  The company transported 20 million passengers and drove 27 million kms in 2013. Through the project “zero emission/Null Emission” (in which the fuel cell buses are part), RVK has set the ambitious target to replace its entire bus fleet by alternative powertrains by 2030.

RVK is operating the fuel cell buses within CHIC, and is exchanging experience and data with CHIC partners and other interested parties.

HyCologne is the official partner within the CHIC project. HyCologne is a cluster for hydrogen, fuel cells and electromobility covering the areas of Cologne, Düsseldorf, Aachen and Bonn (Rhineland). HyCologne is organised as a public private partnership (PPP) and consists of 25 members. The region has a wide-spread chemical industry that has been producing large amounts of hydrogen as a by-product for decades. HyCologne is bringing partners together and has taken the leadership in an initiative to supply this hydrogen for ambitious projects – such as the fuel cell bus project.

Financing sources

The Cologne project is co-financed by the programme “NRW Hydrogen HyWay” of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Fuel cell bus operation in Cologne

4 buses operate in regular service as a joint venture between the public utilities of the city of BrühlHürth and RVK.

Two Phileas 18 metre buses started their operation in 2012. Those buses are prototypes buses: only four of them exist worldwide! The two other buses are in operation in the Netherlands.

Two Van Hool 13 metre buses started their regular service operation in May 2014.  The buses have a 350 km range, and are driven between 12 and 16h in daily operation. The buses are regularly used for shuttle service at the occasion of public events (such as the long night of research) or thematic fairs (the Hannover fair).


An existing paint shop was adapted to be able to host fuel cell buses. This allowed to lower the costs of the workshop, as some components such as ventilation were already in the building, resulting in lower incremental investment cost. (More information on this point here)

The hydrogen refuelling station:

  • is located in Hürth, was built by Air Products and entered in service in 2011
  • has no building (only a protective wall and a fence surrounding it)
  • has a capacity of production of 120kg hydrogen/day
  • has a total storage capacity of 420 kg hydrogen
  • shows a high level of availability (>95%)
  • shows a short refuelling time: the buses are refuelled within 10 minutes in average

Hydrogen source/production

By-product hydrogen from a nearby chemical plant. This is the specificity of Cologne compared to the other CHIC cities.

Next steps

The Phileas buses will continue their operation until summer 2016, while the Van Hool buses will continue their operation until 2024.  RVK indicated its clear intention to integrate fuel cell electric buses as part of its bus fleet as one of the 30 signatories of a letter of understanding which was handed over to the European Commissioner for Transport in June 2015. Fuel cell bus technology is strongly supported at regional level: The Ministry for Building, Housing, Urban development and Transport of North Rhine Westphalia, represented by Ms Kirsten Holling, signed the letter of understanding as well.

Local dissemination materials

Videos have been produced. Find them in the video gallery along with other videos or by clicking on the Phileas buses video and the Van Hool buses video.

Source: Covenant of Mayors, Stadt Köln, RVK (facts/zero emission project), HyCologne, NRW Energy agency – hydrogen and fuel cells network and project results

Related Posts

WP4 Deliverables D4.1~D4.10
Posted on 24 January, 2017
WP3 Deliverables D3.1 ~ D3.15
Posted on 23 January, 2017
2011 ~ 2016 WPL Meetings/Calls
Posted on 23 January, 2017