While the general steps and processes of procurement are well known, the procurement of FCBs and HRSs introduces some additional complexities. The technical details are likely to be new to a site and persons responsible for conducting this activity. For example, standards for refuelling heavy-duty vehicles (fills of > 10kg H2) are still under development, so HRS performance is difficult to assess.
An additional element that must be managed is the requirement for a close linkage between the FCB and HRS technology. The buses and the refueller must be compatible and be able to ‘talk’ to each other, to ensure quick and reliable refuelling. For example, the type of H2 tanks onboard the buses do have an impact on the design of the HRS.
It is also highly desirable that the timing of the arrival and commissioning of the FCBs and HRS are coordinated so that, ideally, neither one sits idle waiting for the other to be available.
These factors have led some sites to procure both FCBs and HRS through a single process conducted by a single organisation such as the PTO. One city site even put out a single ‘outcomes-based’ tender for the complete system of buses and refuelling station. This was successful, and other sites consider this as an option for the future.
Generally, however, while the PTO is likely to have considerable expertise in purchasing buses and be well placed to undertake this task for the FCBs, they are unlikely to have much, if any, expertise in HRS procurement. Accordingly, the PTO is likely to require external expertise for procuring the HRS, or a different party should lead this process.
Some sites have circumvented this challenge (lack of experience with HRSs) by procuring ’H2 refuelling as a service’, rather than buying and operating the actual refuelling hardware themselves. This puts the responsibility and accountability on the contractor to provide the required quantity and quality of H2 and refuel the FCBs where and when required.
This solution is also one way to address a request frequently made by both HRS and FCB suppliers that tender documents should focus on the performance outcomes required. In the case of the HRS, this could include the daily hydrogen demand, the length of the overnight refuelling window and the maximum allowed time to fill per bus, while not stipulating technology details such as HRS storage size. This allows the suppliers to shape their tender solution in the most efficient and effective way, and at the best price. Tendering for performance outcomes is generally recommended as is keeping some flexibility in the specifications where possible.
It is crucial that issues of performance, warranty, maintenance, and supply of parts are clearly understood and agreed by all parties and well documented in the contracts. Only this will count after the contracts are signed. Do not accept non-disclosure clauses that forbid you to talk to third parties when problems occur.