Hydrogen-powered buses to be tested in Clermont-Ferrand, France

Posted: 23 October 2023 | | No comments yet

In partnership with Clermont Auvergne Métropole and SMTC-AC, Keolis Group will operate and maintain 14 hydrogen-powered vehicles in the Clermont-Ferrand region.

Hydrogen-powered buses to be tested in Clermont-Ferrand, France

As part of their energy transition policy and desire to invest in the technologies of the future, Clermont Auvergne Métropole and Clermont City Public Transport Service (SMTC-AC) have announced that they will test a fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles on a major line of the T2C public transport network. 

Starting in September 2024 and for a period of 10 years, Keolis Group will be tasked with the operation and maintenance of 14 new and retrofitted hydrogen-powered vehicles. The Group will also fulfil the role of project manager for this unprecedented experiment. As such, it will coordinate the partner companies involved in the project’s implementation, covering everything from the production of renewable hydrogen to fuelling the fleet and sharing the experience gained. 

The project’s partners presented this pilot test on 18 October 2023 at Rencontres Nationales du Transport Public (RNTP), the national transport congress, in the presence of Marie-Ange Debon, Keolis Chairwoman and Group Chief Executive Officer; Olivier Bianchi, Mayor of Clermont-Ferrand and President of Clermont Auvergne Métropole; and François Rage, Chairman of SMTC-AC. 

Olivier Bianchi, Mayor of Clermont-Ferrand and President of Clermont Auvergne Métropole, said: “The issue of mobility and alternatives to the private car is a major challenge in the fight against climate change and in making everyday life easier for the people who live in our region. Our city, our urban area and their partners are fully mobilised on this issue; in particular, with the implementation of the InspiRe project. By testing a fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles, we hope to rise to the challenge of innovation and create the mobility solutions of the future.” 

François Rage, First Vice-President of Clermont Métropole in charge of sustainable mobility, and Chairman of SMTC-AC, said: “As a mobility-organising authority, SMTC-AC has to think long-term by preparing for the future of public transport on our network. Although future BRT lines will be electric – a tried and tested technology – we are already thinking ahead by experimenting with hydrogen-powered buses. The objective is twofold: to invest in a high-potential sector and to gain the expertise required to deploy this technology once it reaches maturity.” 

Marie-Ange Debon, Keolis Group Chairwoman and Group Chief Executive Officer, said: “As a mobility operator, our role is to guide our customers through their energy transition and their decision-making so that their region may benefit from the most adapted solution in terms of energy, vehicles and infrastructure. We would like to thank Clermont Auvergne Métropole and SMTC-AC for having commissioned us with the management of this innovative project. We are proud to be supporting the implementation of 100% hydrogen-powered mobility on this line in the heart of the Clermont-Ferrand metropolitan area.” 

With concerns such as health issues caused by air pollution, climate change and the cost and depletion of fossil fuels, new, efficient and sustainable energy solutions need to be implemented. SMTC-AC has been committed to achieving this for several years, particularly as part of its policy of renewing its rolling stock. Since 2020, the public-private entity has stopped purchasing diesel-powered buses and, in late 2025, will be commissioning 40 new battery-electric BRTs. Its aim is to have a fleet made up entirely of low emission vehicles by 2035. This new hydrogen-based experiment is fully in line with the energy and ecological transition strategy set out by the Clermont-Ferrand metropolitan area.