Paris is known as the City of Light, but in recent years, its splendor has become shrouded by a blanket of smog so thick it has even made the Eiffel Tower disappear on occasion. Paris is fighting back; new laws restrict motor vehicle access in the center of the city and require the roofs of all new buildings to be covered either in solar panels or vegetation. Now the two largest public transportation companies serving Paris and its surrounding areas — Îl de France Mobilités and RATP — have embarked on a bold new initiative to make all the buses in their fleets zero emissions by 2025.
Last fall, both companies issued RFPs for up to 1000 electric buses worth up to €400 million. The buses will all be standard 12-meter long units and are to be delivered in three installments, with the first expected to go into service in 2020. RATP operates 4,700 buses, of which 800 are diesel electric hybrids, 140 use bio-fuel, and 74 are electric.
“The massive order to equip our fleet with electric buses demonstrates our ambition to become a vital player in the energy transition of the public transport sector. Our aim to ensure a 100% clean fleet by 2025 in the Paris region is what can only be described as a technological challenge that requires us to adapt our 25 bus depots within a very tight time frame. The entire company has been mobilized to succeed with this challenge,” says Catherine Guillouard, president and CEO of RATP.
Recently, RATP confirmed that it will place orders for up to 40 electric buses with each of two French manufacturers — Bolloré and Heuliez. Bolloré is well known to Parisians. The French electric vehicle manufacturer operates Autolib, an electric car-sharing service that is very popular with city residents. The company also operates electric car-sharing services in London, Indianapolis, and Singapore using cars it designs and manufacturers itself.
Heuliez is a much smaller operation. Formerly part of the the FIAT group, it is headquartered in the Netherlands but builds electric buses at a factory in Rorthais, a city southwest of Paris near the Atlantic coast. Hueliez uses batteries from Parisian company SME Forsee Power, which uses battery cells sourced from Japanese and Korean manufacturers.
Going forward, other manufacturers will no doubt contribute to the new Paris electric bus fleet as well. Spanish company Irizar and Poland’s Solaris will be strong competitors for the Paris contracts as will Chinese companies Yutong and BYD. Yutong builds its vehicles in Alsace in partnership with Dietrich Cerebus and BYD has a factory near Beuavais, a city north of Paris, according to Le Monde.
It is one thing to do this to lower carbon emissions in the city of Paris, but if the electric buses didn’t make economic sense, none of this would be happening. As Paris goes, so goes the rest of the world.