Whe public mobility company Eswe Verkehr is retiring its fleet of ten hydrogen buses, each twelve meters long, and is closing the hydrogen bus, which opened in spring 2020 in cooperation with neighboring Mainz and costs around 2.3 million euros -Gas station on the company premises on Gartenfeldstrasse. As previously reported, this was no longer in operation due to a defect. What happens to her is open.
On Wednesday, Eswe Verkehr announced the “realignment of the vehicle fleet strategy” expected by observers. Because the ambitious goal of quickly banning the diesel engine from the municipal bus fleet entirely, as anchored in the clean air plan, has proven to be unrealistic. The articulated buses, which are particularly important for Wiesbaden because of the passenger capacity, were not available in electric versions. Public tenders failed.
A back for the future
Eswe reports that the management has informed the supervisory board led by Transport Director Andreas Kowol (Die Grünen) about the change in strategy, quoting Eswe Managing Director Jan Görnemann as saying: “We are taking one step back on one path, two steps on another to move forward.” After weighing up all the arguments, Eswe Verkehr made a conscious decision to dispense with hydrogen technology in urban bus transport in the future.
With 120 electrically powered solo buses, Eswe Verkehr has one of the largest zero-emission bus fleets in Germany. Only in Hamburg is this even larger, they say. But the backbone of Wiesbaden’s bus services are the 130 articulated diesel buses. They were all delivered or retrofitted with exhaust gas cleaning systems of the Euro 6 standard. In everyday life at the Eswe depot and its workshops, the maintenance of two different drive technologies in parallel is “very demanding”, says Görnemann with regard to the hydrogen variant. The farm is too small for that.
In order to be able to meet the high passenger demand in the urban bus network, buses with a larger passenger capacity than the electric solo buses would be needed. Eswe Verkehr will therefore order another 36 modern articulated diesel buses by 2024. At almost 19 meters, these are almost a meter longer than the articulated buses currently in use and also have four entrance doors. Such buses are not available on the market with alternative drives.
More depot space urgently required
Görnemann reminds the Wiesbaden local politicians of the cramped space in the depot on Gartenfeldstrasse, which is why Eswe has already rented alternative parking spaces. “We now urgently need a solution for additional depot areas so that we can continue to service, maintain and repair our vehicle fleet,” Görnemann calls for decisions to be made soon.
The realignment of the fleet strategy that has now been announced envisages not only decommissioning the ten fuel cell buses, but also selling a further 61 of the twelve-meter-long diesel solo buses. They are to be replaced “in the second half of this decade” by battery-electric articulated buses and, in some cases, by even longer double-articulated buses. The prerequisite is that Eswe has another depot available after 2025. “It’s impossible before that,” states Görnemann.
Next steps are now being planned
About the implementation of the hydrogen strategy, Eswe “entered a dialogue with all project participants” in order to plan the next steps. Eswe declines further information with reference to “contractually agreed confidentiality obligations”. With the end of the hydrogen buses, Eswe buries the high expectations of the system: Less than two years ago, Eswe spoke of “another important building block in the implementation of the clean air plan”. In contrast to the battery buses, the 600,000 euro hydrogen counterparts with a range of more than 400 kilometers – twice that of a battery bus – seemed well suited for long distances. Now they are being discarded.
The question of how the sponsors will react to Wiesbaden’s withdrawal will be exciting. It is probably to be expected that the federal government will reclaim funds granted by Eswe Verkehr. This will cause some discussion in the city council, especially since Eswe Verkehr has been criticized anyway because of the high need for subsidies and the timetable, which has been thinned out for some time. The next timetable change in Wiesbaden has been announced for March.