The city of Barcelona is to become the largest operator of hydrogen buses in Spain after placing a €23.4m order for 38 fuel-cell vehicles from Polish manufacturer Solaris.

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The purchase by publicly owned transport company TMB consists of 26 12-metre buses and two articulated 18-metre buses, with the latter being the first in the country.

Part of the funding for the new fuel-cell buses will come from the European Commission’s NextGenerationEU post-Covid recovery fund, which awarded €21.24m to TMB in July 2023 to help procure 36 hydrogen buses, 23 electric buses and two trains.

Barcelona already has eight hydrogen buses in service, so the new order brings the total to 46 — enabling the operator to exceed its target to have 44 hydrogen buses on the city’s roads by the end of 2025 (alongside 232 electric buses). Deliveries of the 38 new fuel-cell vehicles are due this year, according to Solaris.

The new buses will be supplied with green hydrogen produced at Iberdrola’s Barcelona Green Hydrogen Plant in the Zona Franca industrial area of the city, where 2.5MW of electrolysers are powered by 100% renewable energy under long-term power-purchase agreements.

This facility contains the refuelling equipment that is currently used by the city’s eight hydrogen buses, which were manufactured by Portuguese bus maker Caetano.

Barcelona may soon have the most hydrogen buses in Spain, but it will still be far behind other European cities, including Bologna, Italy, which has ordered 127 fuel-cell buses from Solaris, and continent-wide market leader Cologne in Germany, which is due to have 160 hydrogen buses in operation by the end of this year.

Hydrogen buses tend to have a longer range than battery equivalents, but are said to be far more expensive to buy and operate. This means that they are usually operated on routes that are too long or demanding (eg, hilly) for battery buses to handle.