Safra & Symbio to make 1,500 fuel cell buses in France

French bus manufacturer Safra and the fuel cell joint venture of Michelin and Faurecia, Symbio, announce plans to produce 1,500 hydrogen buses. Businova, the first French fuel cell bus developed by Safra and equipped by Symbio, is already on the road in several cities.

The first fuel cell buses of type Businova can be seen in the towns of Artois-Gohelle, Versailles and Le Mans. Safra and Symbio now agreed to make another 1,500 units with deliveries to begin this December. The partnership goes back to 2019. Only now Safra has invested in doubling the size of its manufacturing facility to reduce manufacturing time and cost significantly. “We have launched the first phase to accelerate our rate of production. This first step will allow us to quickly produce 140 buses per year. Then we plan to invest a total of €100 million over 10 years to produce more and faster to generate a significant reduction in costs,” says Vincent Lemaire, CEO of Safra.

Looking at the production capacity, it appears that the partners will only be able to begin making another 1,500 buses available from December 2021.

It also appears that the new Businova model will be stronger. A recent order from Auxerre specified a hybrid bus combining a 30-kW Symbio fuel cell system with a 30-kilo hydrogen tank and a 132-kWh battery pack. The new models are to carry a 45 kW fuel cell which Symbio says is ready to be mass-produced. It also comprises other key components such as a compressor and power converter that Safra says have been pre-approved to optimise system performance.

According to Symbio, the buses feature a plug-and-play solution specifically designed to meet this market segment’s requirements. “Buses can be in operation seven days a week,” expresses Philippe Rosier, CEO of Symbio. “We have therefore designed an integration scheme that facilitates maintenance, especially the replacement of certain components and filters. Most importantly, Symbio’s bus solution includes a range of 24/7 maintenance services specifically tailored to commercial vehicles.”

Symbio has also begun constructing what it claims to become Europe’s largest fuel cell plant in Saint Fons, France, where it will eventually produce 60,000 systems per year. The company also applied to the ‘Important Projects of Common European Interest’ IPCEI process in the hydrogen segment. “We have a clear strategy to drive both innovation and industrialization,” affirms Philippe Rosier, CEO of the company.

Both Symbio and Safra consider their initiative in line with EU hydrogen policies and aim for international expansion in the longer term.

Faurecia and Michelin founded Symbio in November 2019 and plan to produce 200,000 FC stacks annually for automakers worldwide by 2030. The company is also supplying the FC solution for the three FC van versions recently announced by the Stellantis Group for Opel, Peugeot and Citroën., (PI in German)


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