After signing last year a contract with Qbuzz, a public transport operator in the Netherlands, to deliver 54 battery-electric buses of its latest type A battery-electric city bus, Belgian bus builder Van Hool may deliver another 112 before the end of this year. That’s a gift from the gods, as up to 65% of the employees in Lier have been technically unemployed since the pandemic.
These e-city buses are 56 units of the 13-meter-long A13LE E (48 seats) and 56 of the 15-meter-long A15LE E (56 seats). These seats are heated and individually controlled, while a foldable table and a wireless smartphone charger enable commuters to work. The buses have a ground floor-level entry and can accommodate five wheelchairs.
BEV, PHEV, or trolley
The A-model line was presented in Paris in June 2022 and comes in four lengths: 12 m, 13 m, 18 m and 24 m. They get a zero-emission drivetrain that can be battery-electric, fuel cell on hydrogen, or fed with a pantograph by an overhead contact wire, the so-called trolley-buses.
The ones for Qbuzz are battery-electric with a 310kW motor and an LFP battery pack with a capacity of 578kWh. They are developed by the Van Hool knowledge center in Koningshooik (Lier) in Belgium and can be built in the Belgian or Macedonian factory of the company. According to Van Hool, where the Qbuzz buses will be built has not been decided yet. They are to be commissioned by December 15th, 2024.
Zone Zuid-Holland Noord
They will be used in the Netherlands in the zone ‘ Zuid-Holland Noord’ on the public transport lines snelBuzz and R-net. That area compromises two regions, Holland Rijnland (13 municipalities) and Midden-Holland (5 ), including Leiden, Alphen aan den Rijn, and Gouda.
The 54 buses ordered before at Van Hool are destined for the Qliner network in Groningen and Drenthe. With its longer-distance, inter-city connections, and high average speed, Qbuzz opted for the long 15-meter buses with 55 seats and a large active radius.
1 200 zero-emission buses sold
Since its introduction, Van Hool says it has sold 400 A-buses in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Danmark. Of them, 75% is battery-electric, 16,5% is on hydrogen, and 11,5% is with trolley feed. Van Hool has already built a fleet of 1 200 zero-emission buses and 130 electric touring cars, the latter mainly driving around the US.
But all the smooth marketing talk can’t conceal the truth that the Belgian bus builder, employing some 3 500 people in Belgium, Macedonia (Skopje), and the US, is in dire straights since the coronavirus pandemic made the sector collapse.
De Lijn buys BYD buses
For Van Hool, it was a hard nut to crack, seeing the Flemish public transport operator De Lijn order 92 standard electric buses from Chinese bus maker BYD. The order, representing an investment of over 43 million euros, follows the award by De Lijn’s board of directors of a new framework agreement of up to 500 standard e-buses to BYD Europe.
The order earned De Lijn a lot of criticism, partly because Flemish bus builder Van Hool missed the order. Van Hool has been in bad shape for years, as about 65% of the 2 300 workers at the Koningshooikt headquarters are economically unemployed. BYD builds its buses for Europe in Hungary to comply with EU specifications and profits from lower wages like Van Hool in Macedonia.