Fuel cell-powered tram-bus for the French city of Pau is among the innovations being exhibited

In 2017 the French city of Pau placed an order with Van Hool for eight Exqui.City18 FCs


Belgium will host the world’s largest bus and coach show in Brussels later this month, Busworld Europe, an event that attracted 37,000 visitors from around the world when it was last held in 2017. Belgium’s largest bus and coach manufacturer, Van Hool, has a similarly global outlook.

The family-owned company manufactures approximately 1,400 buses and coaches and as many as 3,000 commercial vehicles annually, of which 80% are exported worldwide. With a workforce of over 4,500, Van Hool is a major bus manufacturer in Europe, offering a complete range of buses for public transport for international markets, ranging from a nine-metre midi bus to a 25-metre double articulated low floor bus.

Van Hool will be exhibiting its strength at Busworld Europe, presenting three world premieres on its stand. In addition, the company will be presenting a number of technological innovations on its vehicles.

Exqui.City Fuel Cell

An Exqui.City tram-bus is always an eye-catching feature on a Van Hool stand. Since Exqui.City was launched in 2011, more than 250 vehicles have been ordered for locations in 11 different countries. Multiple environmentally-friendly powertrain options are offered, including hybrid systems, trolleybuses and batteries – but Busworld Europe will provides an opportunity fuel cell-powered variant of this state-of-the-art vehicle.

In 2017 the French city of Pau placed an order with Van Hool for eight Exqui.City18 FCs: hydrogen-powered, single-articulated tram-buses. This drive converts hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy through reverse electrolysis. On the one hand the electricity is used to power the vehicle and, on the other, unused energy is stored in lithium batteries for additional power where and when needed, such as when pulling away from a stop. The only emission from this “zero emission” vehicle is water vapour.

These vehicles are a world first: never before has a full Bus Rapid Transit system been built with hydrogen-powered single-articulated 18-metre tram-buses. The Exqui.City18 FC Pau design has a capacity of 125 passengers. The vehicle can be fully refuelled in 10 minutes, and can travel approximately 300km.

Also available in a 24-metre bi-articulated format, Exqui.City vehicles now operate in Nimes, Barcelona, Parma, Geneva, Luxembourg, Malmo, Bergen, Hamburg, Linz and Brussels. Exqui.City tram-buses are also a familiar sight on the streets of Belfast, where a 30-strong fleet of 18-metre articulated diesel-electric hybrid vehicles operate the high profile Glider service. This £90m BRT project celebrated its first birthday last month following a highly successful year of service. Over two million additional Glider passenger journeys were made in comparison to previous bus journeys taken along the route, an increase of over 30%.

“Glider has transformed public transport in Belfast and there’s been a fantastic public response to the service over the past year – it’s really been embraced by people across the city!” commented Chris Conway, group chief executive of Translink, Northern Ireland’s public transport operator. “As Glider grows from strength to strength, we’ve been able to invest in two new vehicles, and Phase 2, running between north and south Belfast, has also been announced as part of the Belfast Region City Deal. Over the past year, Glider’s also sparked great interest from other UK and European transport authorities who’ve come here to find out more about our Glider system.”

EX11 extends the range

Five years ago Van Hool launched the EX-range, a modern, efficient, innovative and comfortable alternative to the ever-increasing competition in the coach world market. These vehicles are built at Van Hool’s new bus plant in Skopje, Macedonia, which opened in 2014.

At Busworld Europe Van Hool will be presenting the EX11, the fourth model in the EX-range (adding to the EX15, EX16 and EX17). With it, Van Hool is responding to the increasing market demand to offer a well-equipped and comfortable vehicle in the 11-metre class. Including the L and H variants, with low or standard boarding height, the full EX-range consists of no fewer than 10 versions. Like all these versions, the EX11 can also be ordered immediately. All are available with powerful, economical DAF engines of the latest ‘NG’ generation, coupled with a wide range of manual, automated and automatic gearboxes.

Electrically-powered CX45E

The CX45E is a fully electrically-powered coach for the US market. Van Hool selected Proterra, the leading American producer of battery technology for heavy vehicles, to supply the E2 battery technology. The 100% electrically powered vehicle will have a total battery capacity of 648kWh and a working radius of approximately 300km.

This coach, which will be exhibited at Busworld Europe, is pitched as an ideal solution for fixed routes, particularly in urban and private environments. With proprietary route modelling capability, Van Hool and ABC Companies, the exclusive partner and distributor for the North American market, can ensure range capacity that is conservatively within each operator’s individual needs.

Van Hool has been working with its exclusive partner and distributor ABC Bus Companies, Inc. for more than 30 years, to put the Belgian company on the map in the US. Today, there are more than 11,000 Van Hool coaches and buses on North American roads.

18 vehicles and innovations

Van Hool will be presenting no less than 18 vehicles at Busworld Europe: of these, seven coaches and one bus will be on its stand within the exhibition and a further 10 coaches will be used for test drives. This will give professional visitors the chance to see the quality of Van Hool’s extensive range. Van Hool will use this event to introduce technological innovations on a few of its vehicles. These innovations will be unveiled for the first time at Busworld Europe.

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport and is brought to you in partnership with Van Hool.

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