The City of Montpellier confirmed that it canceled an order for 50 hydrogen fuel cell buses after realizing that it would be cheaper and more efficient to order battery-electric buses instead. Hydrogen fuel cell passenger cars are pretty much dead already.
Virtually every vehicle program from the Toyota Mirai to the Hyundai NEXO Fuel Cell has failed to get any traction as battery-electric vehicles have taken over.
However, some hydrogen proponents have argued that the technology could still prevail for bigger vehicles like buses and trucks.
The likelihood of that happening is becoming increasingly hard to believe, and now we get an interesting real-world example of why.
Montpellier, a city in the south of France, had 50 hydrogen fuel cell buses on order for over two years.
However, the city updated its plan to decarbonize its public transport last week and noted that it canceled the order after reviewing the financials.
Michaël Delafosse, president of the municipality, said that they now expect hydrogen buses to be six times more expensive than electric buses because of the cost of operation (via La Tribune and translated from French):
“Hydrogen technology is promising. But we were helped on the investment but not on the operation. However, it would be six times more expensive than with electric buses. So, for the moment, we are giving up on hydrogen buses, we will see in 2030 if hydrogen is cheaper.”
While the city might have been able to purchase the hydrogen buses for less money, they calculated that the cost of operation would be 0.95 euros ($1.08 USD) per km for hydrogen buses compared to 0.15 euros ($0.17 USD) per km for the battery-electric ones.
That’s mainly due to the cost of producing, storing, and distributing hydrogen, which is much higher and more complicated than charging infrastructure, which relies primarily on an already existing electric infrastructure.
Even in its most efficient form, hydrogen production and distribution is way less efficient than powering a vehicle with a battery:
Now Montpellier, like many other cities around the world, is preparing to place an order for electric buses, which the city believes will help them deliver on their goal to make public transport free for their residents.