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 for this type of vehicle. At a time when the development of this type of vehicle appears to be both an environmental and economic challenge, this launch is a major success, the result of a very good collaboration between the two players.   

30 minutes of recharge for 300 km of autonomy

Bus manufacturer SAFRA and hydrogen systems supplier SYMBIO, a subsidiary of the MICHELIN group, today announced the launch of the hydrogen Businova (see attached technical data sheet). The hydrogen Businova adapts to all weather conditions, 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 battery-only 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. First of all, the Businova’s architecture: the vehicle’s ingenious bi-modular chassis and its self-supporting structure provide flexibility and an almost unlimited capacity for adaptation. Its electric drive train consists of a 250 kW motor. SAFRA and MICHELIN/SYMBIO have also chosen an intelligent hybridization between a 30 kW fuel cell (application of the H2Motiv L module – see appendix) and a 132 kWh battery pack (called “mid-power”). This allows to reduce the hydrogen on board compared to a “Full power” solution (small battery/large cell), with an impact on the filling time and the possibility to charge at medium capacity stations.

Team collaboration at the heart of success

The perfect collaboration between the SAFRA and MICHELIN/SYMBIO teams also played a major role in the project’s success. They worked together on the key stages of development:  

  • Integration into the bus’s overall electrical system: a major integration project was carried out to reduce the weight of the battery and make it very compact, which facilitated its integration into the vehicle.
  • Optimization of the hydrogen fuel cell/battery hybrid.
  • Operational safety: the teams worked together to ensure compliance with current regulations
  • Approval phases – the involvement of different suppliers and the joint work of the teams considerably reduced the approval time. 

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

The answer to an environmental and economic challenge

The launch of the Businova is in line with France’s commitments to reduce CO2 and fine particle emissions (the vehicle is “zero emission”). The deployment of hydrogen buses is moreover planned as part of the National Hydrogen Plan, launched in June 2018, whose objective is to accelerate the French energy transition (the ambition is to put 800 heavy-duty vehicles on the road by 2023, including buses, and then between 800 and 2000 by 2028). To this end, AFHYPAC, which brings together French players 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, on the other hand, only emits water.  

Beyond that, the production of 100% French hydrogen buses appears to be a real challenge for industrial competitiveness. At a time when China expects nearly 20,000 locally produced hydrogen vehicles to be on the road in the country by 2020 – with buses in the lead – and one million by 2030, France and Europe still have a chance to assert themselves on the world stage and to ensure that hydrogen mobility creates jobs in the country.  

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