First Hydrogen Bus route in France

1st September 2017
Pau Hydrogen Bus Station

First Hydrogen Bus route in France
Pau Pyrénées, a region committed to energy transition, made the Hydrogen choice

The GNVERT – VAN HOOL consortium will deploy the first hydrogen bus route in France, in Pau. François Bayrou, President of the community of Pau Béarn Pyrénées, made this public announcement for the creation of a “zero emission” bus route. It will be operated by the Pau transport operator companies SMTU-PPP[1] and STAP[2] from September 2019 between the hospital and the railway station in Pau.

For the first time in France, hydrogen conquers public transport.

Fuelled by hydrogen from renewable sources, eight buses from the Bus Rapid Transit service line (BHNS) will be operating on the streets of Pau within two years, as part of a contract between SMTU-PPP, Engie, Van Hool and ITM Power.

The buses will form an artery of the new transportation network designed by the City within its urban redevelopment project aimed at improving the perception and use of public spaces in a sustainable way.

The use of hydrogen buses is a French first.
The so-called hydrogen buses are electric buses whose energy is stored in the form of pressurized hydrogen: electricity is produced in real time on board the vehicle using innovative technology combining hydrogen and oxygen: a Fuel cell. This “zero emission” technology does not emit any greenhouse gases or atmospheric pollutants during its use, only water vapor.

Hydrogen buses have solid advantages: long driving range (350 km) and rapid recharging (10 minutes). These provide them, amid the various zero-emission bus technology options, with the highest level of operational flexibility and productivity for a bus operator.

The other characteristics of the BHNS buses principally comprise a high-end experience for the traveler (comfort, safety, availability, information), high frequency with short waiting time and a predominantly dedicated bus lane. The BHNS is an effective alternative to the introduction of a rail mode transport, such as the tramway.

The bus will be designed and manufactured by Van Hool, the European manufacturer with the most expertise in hydrogen mobility with more than 50 fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) hydrogen buses already in operation. As a leader and innovator, Van Hool is developing, from its electric platform, an articulated 18-meter fuel cell bus model for the needs of this BRT(BHNS) line.

Engie, via its GNVERT subsidiary, responsible for the distribution of alternative fuels, will take charge of the construction and operation of the hydrogen refuelling station for these buses. The hydrogen will be produced on site by an ITM Power PEM electrolyser powered by local renewable electricity, thus ensuring completely decarbonised energy for propulsion.

With this flagship project, the Engie Group is positioning itself as a key player in the energy revolution: promoting green growth through actions such as increasing the share of renewable energies in the French energy mix, the improvement of air quality and the optimisation of transport networks. The choice of this zero emission solution : zero Co2 and zero local pollutants (fine particles, nitrogen oxides, etc.), demonstrates the potential of making the environmental choices required during the energy transition while offering the best service to Pau public transport users.

This bus project is part of a policy for sustainable mobility, preservation of the environment and the living environment of Pau’s inhabitants. The BHNS is the core of a new mobility but also a vector for an enhanced and sustainable quality of life, increasing economic and residential attractiveness.

Pau Syndicat Mixte de Transports Urbains will invest €13.5M , with €7M  regional and European funds, notably within the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking framework (FCH-JU).

François Bayrou, President of the Pau Béarn Pyrénées Urban Community declares: “The Pau Béarn Pyrénées conurbation has chosen hydrogen innovation for a “zero emission” solution and is transforming a daily mode of transport into an environmental and human project. ”

Nicolas Patriarche, President of the Syndicat Mixte des Transports Urbains (SMTU) adds: “Through the choice of an innovative motorisation, the Syndicat Mixte des Transports Urbains of the Pau agglomeration gives full meaning to the environmental vocation of collective mobility”.

Jan Van Hool, Director of Design & Development, and member of the Van Hool Board, states: “Van Hool is pleased to be able to apply its vast experience in the field of hydrogen-powered vehicles to the new BHNS bus system in Pau. This is a challenge for which we happily roll up our sleeves. On the one hand, Van Hool has sold about 50 Fuel Cell hydrogen vehicles (32 in Europe and 21 in North America) and on the other hand we have introduced just over 200 BHNS buses in 13 European countries and in Martinique. The unique combination of a hydrogen-powered BHNS is undoubtedly a new turning point in the modern and environmentally friendly public transport of tomorrow. ”

Philippe Van Deven, Managing Director of GNVERT, the Engie Group subsidiary, said: “Pau’s choice of hydrogen as a zero-emission solution for a BHNS line is a tremendous boost to the energy transition of fuels. Communities are fully aware of environmental issues related to transportation and in particular the mobility of people. Pau has distinguished itself by its strong choice and the innovative character of this BHNS zero emissions line. This project demonstrates the technical and-economic feasibility of green mobility combining improvement of quality of life in urban areas with the high level of service expected from public transport.”

Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power plc commented: “We are looking forward to supporting GNVERT, VanHool and the City of Pau in this important hydrogen bus project. The hydrogen bus market is growing rapidly and it is a great pleasure to be working with such an important group of leaders on this major step forward in France.”

[1] SMTU-PPP : Syndicat Mixte de Transports Urbains – Pau Portes des Pyrénées
[2] STAP : Société de Transport de l’Agglomération Paloise

For further information please visit or contact:

ITM Power plc Graham Cooley, CEO +44 (0)114 244 5111
Investec Bank plc (Nominated Adviser and Broker) Jeremy Ellis / Chris Sim / Jonathan Wynn +44 (0)20 7597 5970
Tavistock (Financial PR and IR) Simon Hudson / James Collins +44 (0)20 7920 3150

About ITM Power plc
ITM Power manufactures integrated hydrogen energy solutions which are rapid response and high pressure that meet the requirements for grid balancing and energy storage services, and for the production of clean fuel for transport, renewable heat and chemicals. ITM Power plc was admitted to the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange in 2004. The Company received £4.9m as a strategic investment from JCB in March 2015. The Company signed a forecourt siting agreement with Shell in September 2015. The Company currently has £18.0m of projects under contract and £19.9m of contracts in the final stages of negotiation, totalling £37.9m (subject to exchange rate variation).

About ENGIE and its GNVERT subsidiary
ENGIE places responsible growth at the core of its business lines (electricity, natural gas, energy services) to address the major challenges of energy transition to a low carbon economy: access to sustainable energy, mitigation and adaptation to climate change and the rational use of resources. The Group develops high-performance, innovative solutions for individuals, cities and businesses, building on its expertise in four key sectors: renewable energy, energy efficiency, liquefied natural gas and digital technologies.

ENGIE has 153,090 employees worldwide with a turnover in 2016 of 66.6 billion euros. Listed in Paris and Brussels (ENGI), the Group is represented in the main international indices: CAC 40, CAC 40 Governance, BEL 20, DJ Euro Stoxx 50, Euronext 100, FTSE Eurotop 100, MSCI Europe, DJSI World, DJSI Europe and Euronext Vigeo (World 120, Eurozone 120, Europe 120 and France 20).

Since 1998, GNVERT, a subsidiary of the ENGIE Group, has put all its expertise at the service of companies and local authorities in order to offer tailor-made green mobility solutions. GNVERT is the leader in France of refueling solutions for alternative fuels (CNG, BioGNC, LNG, Hydrogen..) and operates 140 stations.

Van Hool is an independent Belgian manufacturer of buses, coaches and industrial vehicles. The family business, founded in 1947, is based in Koningshooikt (Belgium). The vast majority of production is destined for the European and American markets. Van Hool employs approximately 4,400 people worldwide, most of whom work in production centers in Koningshooikt (Belgium) and Skopje (Macedonia). Van Hool was founded in 1947 by Bernard Van Hool. For 70 years Van Hool is renowned for designing and building high-tech customized products.

About the Communauté d’agglomération Pau Béarn Pyrénées
The Communauté d’agglomération Pau Béarn Pyrénées (Pau Béarn Pyrenees Urban Community), presided by François Bayrou, gathers 31 municipalities and 161,000 inhabitants and forms one of the main urban agglomerations in New Aquitaine. In keeping with national and European strategies, the Pau metropolitan area is committed to be a leading player in climate solutions and energy transition. The BHNS hydrogen electric bus project is emblematic from this point of view.

The semi-public Syndicate of Urban Transport of Pau-Porte des Pyrénées was created on 2 April 2010. It is the organizing authority for the public transport. Since January 1st, 2017, its territorial jurisdiction covers 37 municipalities and accounts for nearly 184 000 inhabitants. It includes the Community of Agglomeration of Pau Béarn Pyrénées (31 towns) as well as the town of Montardon, Morlaàs, Navailles-Angos, Sauvagnon, Serres-Morlaàs and Serres-Castet.


Rebecca Markillie
Marketing & Communications
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