SAFRA and MICHELIN/SYMBIO: for a 100% French hydrogen bus offer

The launch of the first SAFRA electric bus equipped with a Michelin/Symbio hydrogen system demonstrates the possibility of a 100% French offer on this type of vehicle. At a time when their development appears to be an environmental and economic issue, this launch is a major success, the result of a very good collaboration between the two players.

30 minutes of charging for 300 km of range

The bus manufacturer SAFRA and the hydrogen systems supplier SYMBIO, a subsidiary of the MICHELIN group, today announced the launch of the Businova hydrogen (see technical sheet in annex), a 100% French hydrogen electric bus that manages to reconcile two key benefits for users: a zero-emission driving and a great comfort of use – the Businova hydrogen adapts to all weather conditions, it is as efficient as a diesel bus in terms of capacity, acceleration and availability, can travel more than 300 km per day, and recharges in less than 30 minutes (compared to several hours for a single battery bus). Finally, the investment and operating costs of the associated hydrogen stations are limited, since this hydrogen bus can refuel at medium capacity facilities (less than 80 kg/day).

Such performances are the result of a studied combination of technical choices. In terms of the Businova’s architecture, first of all: the vehicle’s ingenious bi-modular chassis and its self-supporting structure provide almost unlimited flexibility and adaptability. Its electric traction chain consists of a 250 kW motor. SAFRA and MICHELIN/SYMBIO have also chosen an intelligent hybridization between a fuel cell with an output of 30 kW (application of the H2Motiv L module – see appendix) and a 132 kWh battery pack (we call it “mid-power”). This makes it possible to reduce the onboard hydrogen compared to a “Full power” solution (small battery/large battery), with an impact on the filling time and the possibility of charging at medium capacity stations.

Team collaboration at the heart of success

The perfect collaboration between the SAFRA and MICHELIN/SYMBIO teams is also a major factor in the success of the project. They worked together on the key stages of development:
  • The integration into the bus’s overall electrical chain: a major integration work was carried out to obtain a reduced battery weight and a very compact volume, which facilitated the integration into the vehicle.
  • Optimization of hydrogen/battery hybridization.
  • Operational safety: the teams worked together to ensure compliance with current regulations
  • Approval phases – the implications of the different suppliers and the joint work of the teams have significantly reduced approval time.

In the end, the development time was very short (less than 2 years), which confirms the prospects announced for France in the hydrogen deployment plan.

The answer to an environmental and economic issue

The launch of Businova is in line with France’s commitments to reduce CO2 and fine particulate emissions (the vehicle is “zero-emission”). The deployment of hydrogen buses is also planned as part of the National Hydrogen Plan, launched in June 2018, which aims to accelerate the French energy transition (the ambition is to put on the road 800 heavy vehicles by 2023, including buses, then between 800 and 2000 by 2028). In this regard, AFHYPAC, which brings together French actors in the sector, has launched a “1000 Bus Plan”. It must be said that a diesel bus (consuming 45 l per 100 km) emits CO2 and fine particles, whose effects on health and the planet are disastrous. The hydrogen bus only releases water.
Beyond that, the production of 100% French hydrogen buses is a real challenge for industrial competitiveness. At a time when China forecasts that nearly 20,000 locally produced hydrogen vehicles will be in circulation in the country by 2020 – with buses in the lead – and one million in 2030, France and Europe still have a chance to assert themselves on the world stage and ensure that hydrogen mobility creates jobs in the country.

In France, after the delivery of the 6 Businova hydrogen for the Artois-Gohelle agglomeration, SAFRA plans to deliver 5 hydrogen vehicles to BE Green, as well as a first at Le Mans.

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