Greater Paris area to launch tests of 24-metre electric bus

In the French capital region of Île-de-France, the first test drives are taking place with an electric double-articulated bus equipped with a floor-based conductive charging system from Alstom. The public transport authority Île-de-France Mobilités is planning to purchase an entire fleet of 24-metre-long electric buses.

Image: Alstom

The test vehicle is called Tzen 4 and was developed by a consortium of the companies Van Hool, Kiepe Electric and Alstom for Île-de-France Mobilités. It has been known since 2021 that the public transport authority for the greater Paris area is interested in this double-articulated electric bus. A 24-metre-long example has now made its first journey at the bus operations centre in Corbeil-Essonnes.

The buses themselves come from Van Hool, the battery system from Kiepe Electric and the SRS system – the ground-based charging solution – from Alstom. The French company had already announced the latter in 2019. This is a static charging system with ground contact “that charges the on-board equipment automatically, at very high power and in just a few minutes”, as Alstom explains. Charging can take place either at a stop on a bus route during operation or at a depot.

Specifically, the new charging solution is a further development of an Alstrom charging system for trams. Alstrom describes the advantage of the SRS system as the fact that no above-ground infrastructure is required and that the system is both modular and compatible with all types of electric buses. “For more than 20 years now, Alstom has been developing and deploying catenary-free static and dynamic ground charging solutions,” said Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud, President of Alstom France. These solutions are used in a dozen cities around the world. “Today, I am delighted with this world première: the first circulation of the Tzen 4 bus, 100% electric, bi-articulated and recharged on the ground thanks to our proven and innovative SRS system.”

Alstom does not specify the exact charging capacity. In 2019, there was talk of 200 kW in connection with a 12-metre prototype presented in the Spanish city of Málaga. The development of the system was driven by an earlier pilot project led by Alstom called PALOMA (Prototype for Alternative Operation of Mobility Assets).

In 2021, Île-de-France emerged as the hotspot for the first commercial use of the technology. The public transport authority Île-de-France Mobilités awarded the contract to the consortium of Van Hool, Kiepe Electric and Alstom to build a fleet of electric double-articulated buses. The extra-long buses are to be used on two new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines between Viry-Chatillon and Corbeil-Essonnes and between Paris and Choisy-le-Roi. The number of buses was not initially specified. However, a framework agreement followed in spring 2022, in which Île-de-France Mobilités was granted the option to order at least 56 units. However, only the minimum number was specified at the time; no upper limit or financial scope of the framework agreement was mentioned.

According to information provided by Île-de-France Mobilités at the time, these are the first 24-metre-long electric double-articulated buses in the capital region. The vehicles should combine the advantages of a tram with those of a road bus and be able to carry around 140 passengers. On most of the routes mentioned, the buses travel in their own lanes and are given priority at traffic lights. The line between Viry-Chatillon and Corbeil-Essonnes, named Tzen 4, will replace the existing line 402 – currently the busiest line in the Paris region. The second line – Tzen 5 – is a new bus route that will connect the 13th arrondissement of Paris with Choisy-le-Roi via Ivry-sur-Seine and Vitry-sur-Seine in just under 33 minutes.

It is not known to what extent the recent announcement by Belgian bus manufacturer Van Hool to completely discontinue the production and sale of city buses jeopardises the project. As is well known, the company no longer sees any chance of being competitive in the increasingly electric city bus segment. The economic situation is also very tense.


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