France to boast its first hydrogen bus route

The Engie subsidiary GNVERT and the Belgian bus manufacturer Van-Hool are collaborating on the first hydrogen bus route in France. The community of Pau in the Pyrénées will have eight hydrogen buses by September 2019.

Hydrogen is “conquering” public transport for the first time in France in the form of eight buses on the Bus Rapid Transit service line (BHNS) between the hospital and the railway station Pau in the Pyrénées.

The buses will be fuelled by hydrogen from renewable sources as part of a contract between the Pau transport operator companies SMTU-PPP, Engie, Van Hool and ITM Power.

The hydrogen buses are electric buses whose energy is stored in the form of pressurized hydrogen. Electricity is produced in real time on board the vehicle using a fuel cell, an innovative technology that combines hydrogen and oxygen. This technology does not emit any greenhouse gases or other pollutants during its use, only water vapour.

According to a statement announcing the new hydrogen bus route, the 18-metre long hydrogen buses will have a long driving range of 350 kilometres and a rapid recharging of just 10 minutes. The buses will operate on a predominantly dedicated bus lane.

François Bayrou, president of the Pau Béarn Pyrénées Urban Community, said: “The Pau Béarn Pyrénées conurbation has chosen hydrogen innovation for a ‘zero emission’ solution and is transforming a daily mode of transport into an environmental and human project.”

The buses will be designed and manufactured by Van Hool, a Belgium-based bus manufacturer with expertise in hydrogen mobility and more than 50 fuel cell electric vehicle hydrogen buses already in operation.

Engie, via its GNVERT subsidiary, will be responsible for distributing the alternative fuels and will construct and operate the hydrogen refuelling station for the buses.

The hydrogen will be produced on site by an ITM Power PEM electrolyser powered by local renewable electricity to ensure 100 per cent decarbonized energy for propulsion.

Jan Van Hool, Director of Design & Development and a member of the Van Hool Board, called the project “a challenge for which we happily roll up our sleeves”.

“The unique combination of a hydrogen-powered BHNS is undoubtedly a new turning point in the modern and environmentally friendly public transport of tomorrow.”


Image credit: Sandra M. Pereira Pena via Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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