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Take-away's from the Busworld Foundation session at ZEB Conference in Paris (17 Nov. 2021)

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

At the ZEB (Zero Emission Bus) Conference in Paris, Busworld Foundation coordinated the input from the bus manufacturing industry on 17 November. Four bus manufacturers, Caetano, Ivecobus, Van Hool and Safra, had a panel discussion about the status of the technology and the market implementation of battery electric buses and fuel cell & hydrogen buses in Europe.

There are five major conclusions from this panel discussion.

1. Slow adoption rate

Still today, 73% of new buses have diesel drivetrains. Alternative drivetrain buses are bought by big public transport authorities and international public transport operators. The implementation of zero emission buses in smaller fleets or coach operations has hardly started.

2.Battery more mature than hydrogen

Battery electric buses (BEB) are perceived as being the more mature technology compared to fuel cell and hydrogen buses (FCHB). The difference of maturity is not so much the vehicle itself, but rather the procedure and infrastructure to ‘fuel up’ and the current availability of electricity versus hydrogen.

3.To be improved

BEB’s should work on the extension of the range and the ease of use of the charging process.

For FCHB the focus should be on improving the energy efficiency of the fuel cells and creating a green hydrogen network of filling points along European highways.

Improving the energy management of the bus operations via smart charging/fuelling strategies will be crucial in general.

4.High invest level

Concerning the implementation in the market, the investment level or CAPEX is the main challenge. The purchase of an electric bus is 100% more expensive than a diesel bus. A fuel cell bus costs even, 3,5 times as much as a diesel bus. Not taking the investment of the charging/fueling infrastructure into account.

5.TCO’s are slowly leveling

The total cost of ownership (TCO) is slowly reaching the same level. For battery electric buses the TCO will equal the one of diesel buses by 2024, while for fuel cell buses TCO will be comparable to the battery electric buses TCO by 2030.

By the second half of this decade, the TCO of fuel cell buses will even become more interesting for big fleets. Although the vehicles are more expensive, the infrastructure for the hydrogen fueling is cheaper, since you need a smaller number of fueling points. Charging batteries takes more time (several hours) than fueling with hydrogen (less than 10 minutes), so a fueling point can service more buses than a charging point.

But first scaling up the use of hydrogen in general is necessary to obtain a lower hydrogen price level to reach a feasible TCO.

Practical advice

The debate ended with two important points of practical advice from the manufacturers towards the operators.

‘Make a good analysis of the characteristics of the buslines, so you can decide about the best applicable technology for each route.’

‘Think ahead and keep in mind the final set-up of your depot with an all electric fleet, even if you will implement in phases. Some aspects are impossible to change like the electricity capacity at your location.’

Stay tuned for more Busworld Foundation keynotes and panels in other party events around the world.

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