Van Hool N.V. has signed a grant agreement with the EU Hydrogen Fuel Cell Joint Undertaking for deployment of 21 fuel cell buses in Europe as part of the 3Emotion Program. Ballard Power Systems and Van Hool, partners in the deployment of numerous fuel cell buses in Europe (earlier post), are in the process of finalizing an equipment supply agreement (ESA) for the provision by Ballard of 21 next-generation fuel cell power modules for the buses. Ballard anticipates receipt of purchase orders under the ESA that will lead to delivery of these fuel cell modules to Van Hool in 2015 and 2016.
Van Hool is a Belgium-based independent bus, coach and industrial vehicle OEM. There are currently 27 Van Hool fuel cell buses, powered by Ballard modules, in public transit operation. Ballard holds an estimated 80% share of the European market for fuel cell bus modules.
In November 2014 Ballard and Van Hool jointly launched a dedicated European Service and Parts Centre for fuel cell buses—called ESPACE—to provide support for Ballard-powered Van Hool buses. (Earlier post.) That same month Van Hool and four other major bus OEMs—Daimler Buses (EvoBus), MAN, Solaris Bus & Coach, and VDL Bus & Coach—signed a Letter of Understanding outlining their commitment toward the commercialization and deployment of fuel cell buses in European urban public transport, including their anticipation that around 500-to-1,000 fuel cell buses can be put into service in Europe during the 2017-20 period.
For these newly funded buses, Ballard will deliver its FCvelocity-HD7 product, a next-generation fuel cell power module offering improved durability and reliability together with significant cost reduction (Ballard estimates a 30-40% reduction.) Product enhancements include reduced parts count, fewer moving parts, integrated air compressor and coolant pump along with lower parasitic load.
The module will also utilize fuel cell stacks manufactured through a high-volume, low-cost process. These product enhancements and efficient manufacturing process will reduce capital expense and operating costs, providing a more competitive total cost of ownership in comparison with alternative low-emission technologies.
In December 2014, the first two buses powered by Ballard’s prototype FCvelocity-HD7 fuel cell power module were presented to Hamburger Hochbahn AG—transit operator for the City of Hamburg, Germany—and are now part of an operations trial. These buses are based on a new articulated electric bus platform designed by Solaris, incorporating Ballard fuel cell modules as range extenders, in combination with batteries.
The two Solaris buses are part of a trial and evaluation of alternative drive technologies, being undertaken by the City of Hamburg. Buses that use alternative drive technologies will be deployed along a single route by Hamburger Hochbahn, in order to compare performance of each technology under the same operating conditions. Two different fuel cell hybrid bus designs—including the Solaris design—as well as a plug-in hybrid bus platform, will be trialed beginning this month.
The EU Hydrogen Fuel Cell Joint Undertaking is a public-private partnership supporting research, technological development and demonstration activities in fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies, providing subsidies for eligible projects through a cost share mechanism. Under Framework FP7, the European Commission and industry have each committed €470 million (US$530 million) of funding for fuel cell & hydrogen research and demonstrations through the 2008-14 period. The next program, Horizon 2020, extends this initiative to the year 2020 with an incremental budget of €700 million (US$790 million), including 50% cost share from the industry.