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“Electrics make more sense”

The mayor of the city of Montpellier (in the south of France), Michaël Delafosse, has confirmed that the request for 50 fuel cell buses of hydrogen that were commissioned more than two years ago and that were part of the project called “Horizon Hydrogen Montpellier” is canceled “and is already part of the past”.

Instead, the city will have a network of five battery electric bus lines that will be operational in 2025. Specifically, they will be “Bustram” that will circulate on exclusive lanes, without the need for special tracks, but with a function similar to that of trams.

The main reason given by Delafosse for this abrupt turn of the script is “the high cost of daily use of hydrogen buses”.

A project that will not die completely

At the presentation of the future battery electric bus network, Michaël Delafosse stated that, after having recently reviewed the budgets for sustainable mobility projects for Montpellier, his government team had realized that “hydrogen buses are now six times more expensive than electric ones” due to their running cost.

as collected local media La Tribune Delafosse noted: “Hydrogen technology is really promising but, although we had aid for the initial investment, we can’t say the same for exploitation. So, for now, we’re giving up hydrogen buses: we will see if in 2030 hydrogen is cheaper“.

The “Horizon Hydrogène Montpellier” project had been approved by the previous team in charge of the metropolis -directed by Philippe Saurel- and its main objective was to make the transport system cleaner by investing in 51 hydrogen-powered buses with four bus lines: 21 of these vehicles were to be put into service from 2023, and the remaining 30 from 2025.

To supply the buses, the company “Energies du Sud” had been created, which as part of the project would be in charge of construction and operation of a hydroelectric plant (which through hydrolysis had the objective of producing 800 kg of green hydrogen per day), as well as creating a 2.8 MWp photovoltaic plant, hydrogen storage and distribution stations so that the buses could refuel.

Place De La Comedie Montpellier

Comedy Square, Montpellier (France)

In total, the cost of this initial or preparatory phase was €29 million, although the problem lies in the operating cost involved in starting up an entire fleet of hydrogen buses on a daily basis, as the leaders of Montpellier want transport to be free for their citizens.

Regardless of the cost of hydrogen buses, they calculated that the operating cost would be 0.95 euros per kilometer compared to 0.15 euros per kilometer for battery electric buses.

This notable difference, which translates into six times less cost for battery electric buses compared to hydrogen buses, it is mainly due to the high current price involved in producing, storing and distributing hydrogen, much higher than that of the recharging infrastructure for battery electric buses that depend -mainly- on a existing electrical infrastructure.

Although hydrogen buses have been left out of the sustainable mobility options for Montpellier in the short term, hydrogen generation is in the study phase, in case it could be applied to other uses.

Thus, for the moment we will have to wait to find out if the subsidies that the project had obtained until now are lost with it, or if they will be able to fulfill their purpose, even partially. Meanwhile, battery electric buses are already on the way.

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Lenny Li

I started to play with tech since middle school. Smart phones, laptops and gadgets are all about my life. Besides, I am also a big fan of Star War. May the force be with you!

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