The German city of Cologne (Köln in German) is set to have 160 hydrogen buses on its roads by the end of next year, extending its existing Europe-wide lead in the sector, after confirming an order for a further 20 vehicles from Polish manufacturer Solaris.

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The city bus operator, Regionalverkehr Köln (RVK), which is owned by several local authorities, already runs more fuel-cell buses than any other public transport provider in Europe, with 72 units currently on the road.

RVK has been planning to operate 160 fuel-cell buses by 2025 since April 2022, when the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport awarded funding of €33.9m to expand its then fleet of 52 H2 buses by a further 108.

It has since ordered 88 fuel-cell buses, with the latest order for 18 units of Solaris’ Urbino 18 model being the city’s first articulated H2 buses — ie, extra-long with a central hinge.

These buses can accommodate 138 passengers, and can store more than 50kg of H2 in eight rooftop cylinders, giving a “guaranteed range of 350km regardless of weather and topographical conditions”, according to RVK, which also operates buses to several smaller cities outside Cologne, including the former West German capital Bonn.

The world leader in hydrogen buses is the South Korean city of Incheon, which is due to have 200 units on the road this year, and 700 by the end of 2024.