Europe’s largest ever order for hydrogen buses has been won by Polish manufacturer Solaris in a €272m tender held by TPER, a local-government-owned public transport company in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna.

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The deal will see 127 units of Solaris’ Urbino 127 single-decker fuel-cell bus heading to the city of Bologna by June 2026, with a further three being used in the nearby city of Ferrara.

A first batch of 37 vehicles will be delivered by the end of 2024, with the remainder arriving in 2025 and 2026, according to the Polish bus maker.

TPER also has the right to extend the order to a further 140 units at a later date.

The tender had an estimated value of €272.34m ($292.66m), according to Tenders Electric Daily, an online supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union — with the money coming from the Italian government’s post-Covid recovery fund, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR).

The buses — which will replace existing diesel and compressed-natural-gas models — are estimated to cost about €1m each, and the deal also includes “related mission-declared spare parts for the entire life cycle” of 15 years, but the final size of the award remains confidential.

Bologna already has 82 battery electric buses in operation, and plans to add a further 140 of these by 2030, according to Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. It also operates fully electric trolleybuses that charge as they travel using overhead cables, as well as electric trams.

TPER believes that both battery electric and fuel-cell electric will be needed to decarbonise its bus services, with the hydrogen vehicles apparently targeted more towards medium- to long-distance suburban and inter-city routes, and the all-electric buses, trolleybuses and trams on more urban routes.

Solaris’ Urbino 12 fuel-cell buses can cover about 350km on a single tank, powered by 37.5kg of hydrogen in rooftop tanks, and a 70kW fuel cell.

The bus manufacturer, based in western Poland, last week announced the sale of 18 hydrogen buses in Cologne, Germany.

TPER is 46%-owned by the Emilia-Romagna regional government, 30%-owned by the city of Bologna, 19%-owned by the wider Bologna metropolitan council, with the remainder held by a host of local authorities, including those in Ferrara.