Pau discontinues H2 project – and buys battery buses in future
In 2019, the southern French city of Pau commissioned eight H2 buses. Four more have been ordered, but these will probably be the last H2-powered buses in Pau. After that, the city plans to only procure batter-electric buses. Jérémie Neillo, head of transport operations in Pau, told the French newspaper La Gazette des Communes about the many breakdowns and that H2 fuel costs have almost doubled. The consequence: “We will buy eight buses per year over the next ten years. Hydrogen would be too difficult to handle.” Instead, the city wants to switch to battery-electric buses.
In 2019, Pau boasted that it had put the world’s first hydrogen-powered express bus system into operation under the name Fébus. Since then, eight ExquiCity18 Fuel Cell Van Hool buses in tram design have been in operation. The fuel cell technology for the buses comes from Ballard Power Systems. As in many Van Hool models, the drive is supplied by Siemens. The 18-metre-long articulated buses offer space for 125 passengers and can cover more than 300 kilometres per hydrogen charge on paper.
The hydrogen high-speed buses were part of a major reorganisation of the public transport system in Pau in 2019. They are used on a dedicated express bus route in the southern French city, which is six kilometres long and has 14 stops. 85 per cent of the route runs in a protected lane, and the express buses have priority at junctions. That means that the journey time of 17 minutes can be maintained even in heavy traffic, making the route attractive compared to other modes of transport.
According to Neillo, although the service works 99 per cent of the time, it is “a daily adventure.” He puts the running costs at almost one million euros per year. However, that is because of flat-rate maintenance contracts. Otherwise, the costs for maintenance and repairs would add another 300,000 euros to the bill.
The administration of the French metropolitan region of Montpellier had previously decided against purchasing hydrogen buses in favour of battery buses, contrary to earlier plans.