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February 27 2019
By Tim Deakin

Tim is Editor of routeone and has worked in both the coach and bus and haulage industries.

Van Hool: ZE is possible in European coaches

Work with Proterra in US likely to deliver knowledge, but ‘there is not one solution’ to the issue, it says

Van Hool is already working with Proterra to develop the ZE CX45E

Van Hool does not rule out offering zero-emission coaches in Europe, but it says that there will be no single solution to air quality-driven requirements - and the Belgian manufacturer remains a “big believer” in diesel.

Nevertheless, CEO Filip Van Hool adds that the relationship with American designer and builder of heavy-duty EVs Proterra, which will spawn a battery-electric coach for the US market, will deliver experience that may subsequently transfer to European models.

Various options

“We are prepared for future demands; we are flexible, and we are listening to customers,” says Mr Van Hool. Additionally, the development of a diesel-electric hybrid coach that offers modest engine-off capability has not been excluded.

“We do not plan a zero-emission coach for Europe in the short term. A range of 300km on electric power under tough conditions is a realistic requirement - but to deliver that would require around 5,000kg of batteries.”

An alternative to battery power is a hydrogen fuel cell. Van Hool has received enquiries looking for a 550km zero-emission range in a coach; that, says Mr Van Hool, is not something that can be done with batteries. Hydrogen is a more realistic long-term option for such needs.

To fund the necessary development work for zero-emission coaches, Van Hool plans to grow its business. The Skopje plant in Macedonia that produces the EX range has latent capacity, and Van Hool is in the process of opening a factory in the United States to build buses.

Most efficient ZE?

With Proterra, Van Hool is developing the 13.7m CX45E. At the time it was announced, both companies said the CX45E will be “the best-performing and most efficient electric coach yet.”

To that, Proterra CEO Ryan Popple added that the California-based fimd had already investigated whether its technology would be suitable for use in electric coaches in Europe.

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