A city in France has canceled a plan to buy more than 50 hydrogen buses after officials determined that operating the same amount of electric buses would cost just a sixth of the original project, saving it €2.5 million (almost $A4 million).
The original plan, first set out in 2019 by the French city of Montpellier, included buying 51 hydrogen-powered buses and installing an 800 kg/day hydrogen production station built by local solar energy equipment supplier Energies du Sud and Hynamics, a subsidiary of the energy giant EDF group.
Dubbed “Montpellier Horizon Hydrogène” and instated by then mayor Philippe Saurel, the plan would have seen 20 hydrogen buses deployed starting 2023 and another 30 from 2025.
But the project – which would have been one of the largest of its kind in France – has now been scrapped by city president Michaël Delafosse, who said (translated from French) in a press release in early January that, “it would cost six times more than with electric buses.”
“So, for the moment, we are giving up hydrogen buses, we will see in 2030 if hydrogen is cheaper,” he said.
The cost of the hydrogen bus project had been estimated at €29 million, a cost that had been substantially reduced with various grants and subsidies according to La Tribune.
But the operating costs would still be inordinately higher than simply operating electric buses, an official said. In a statement to the French paper, Julie Frêche, VP of the city in charge of transport and active mobility said that, “The operation of all hydrogen bustram would be 3 million euros per year against 500,000 euros with electric buses. Or 0.15 euros per km in electric against 0.95 euros on hydrogen. So six times less…”
She pointed out that the difference in cost for the vehicles was also substantial. “The price difference between an electric bus and a hydrogen bus is between 150,000 and 200,000 Euros,” she said, adding that the city would not have been able to produce enough green hydrogen, which would have forced it to then buy it.
The plan to build a hydrogen production facility however is still under discussion.
“We want to find a solution so as not to penalise projects that go beyond the territory of Montpellier alone,” Frêche was quoted as saying.
“We are abandoning the hydrogen buses, but the planned hydrogen production station therefore remains a subject of discussion.” Key to this is the fact that €18 million in subsidies have already been sought.
“These 18 million euros in subsidies relate to the overall investment project and that is why, in order not to lose them, we want to bring all the players concerned around the table with Hynamics to see how to achieve this hydrogen production station,” Frêche was reported as saying.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.