The German capital, Berlin, has added four new hydrogen-fueled buses to its fleet. As part of a European Union sponsored project, the four buses help Europe on its way to the hydrogen economy.

These hydrogen-fueled prototypes roamed the streets during the world cup when Berlin's passenger volume was at an all-time peak. Klaus Wazlak, spokesman for the Berlin Transportation Company (BVG) said: $quot;The buses proved their worth very nicely during the world cup.$quot;

Although the fuel may be too expensive now, the makers of these prototype buses believe that their hydrogen-fueled buses will soon become a cost-competitive alternative to vehicles powered by gasoline.

Neoman bus, the company that produces and supplies the buses, believes that the project is an investment in to the markets of the future. Already, the company is negotiating with several potential customers in Italy and the Netherlands, and expects to sell between 50 and 70 hydrogen vehicles starting 2008.

BVG is encouraged by the positive results of the field study. However, in reality BVG is on a tight budget and hydrogen is a costly affair. Neoman charges about €220,000 ($290,000) for a diesel bus. The new hydrogen buses are expected to be more than twice as much.

Despite this, Neoman developers are convinced that hydrogen technology could soon become cost-effective. The EU commission agrees and says: $quot;It is more a question of when, rather than whether.$quot;

The entire project has the need of some outside encouragement and money. Berlin's buses are part of a larger EU project, HyFleet:Cute. This stands for hydrogen for clean Urban Transport in Europe. The HyFleet:Cute project allows a direct comparison between hydrogen-fueled Internal Combustion Engine and Fuel Cell buses. The project examines the ecological and economical advantages and disadvantages of both technologies.