FlixBus is to Europe what Greyhound is to America, except that its buses are clean and modern whereas Greyhound’s fleet looks like it it is left over from the Eisenhower administration. The company owns no buses and employs no drivers. Instead it offers permitting, network planning, marketing, pricing, quality management, and customer services to regional bus companies, which provide the coaches and drivers and the day to day management of routes.
The company was created in Munich in 2011 by three entrepreneurs who wanted to offer sustainable, comfortable and affordable travel. Today it operates long distance networks in France, Italy, Austria, the Netherland,s and Croatia and cross-border routes to Scandinavia, Spain, England, and Eastern Europe.
The company is owned by FlixMobility, whose CEO André Schwämmlein tells PV Magazine, “After being the first to successfully launch three fully electric buses, we now want to develop the first long distance buses powered by fuel cells, along with Freudenberg technology, to mark another milestone in the history of mobility.” The company says its fuel cell vehicles must have a range of at least 500 kilometers with refueling taking a maximum and refueling taking a maximum of 20 minutes. The performance characteristics of fuel cell buses — power and acceleration — must also align with current long distance bus standards.
Flixbus says it has already begun talks with bus manufacturers about the introduction of hydrogen models. Its first electric buses were manufactured by BYD and Yutong, but the company wants to provide an opportunity to all European bus manufacturers to participate in hydrogen fuel cell bus development.
Parent company FlixMobility is also working with Freudenberg Sealing Technologies to test hydrogen fuel cell buses on long-distance journeys. Claus Möhlenkamp, CEO of Freudenberg Sealing Technologies says, “A hybrid system that properly combines the battery and fuel cells is especially practical for heavy vehicles that cover long distances since purely electric vehicles still do not have the ability to cover long distances. In the first phase of the FlixBus fuel cell project, a representative bus fleet will be equipped with the technology as a pilot test.”
No details about where or how many hydrogen refueling stations will be built have been released to date. Nor is the source of the hydrogen specified. In Europe, most commercial hydrogen is made by splitting water with electricity, but some still comes from reforming natural gas, a process that is far from sustainable. Hydrogen fuel cells make sense for large vehicles traveling long distances, at least until batteries get smaller and cheaper. Hopefully the FlixBus initiative will help remove even more diesel powered vehicles from European roadways.
FlixBus is now operating in the US as well, promising low cost, dependable service between many American cities. Fares start at just $5.00. There is no word yet on whether fuel cell powered buses will come to North America anytime soon.
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