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Green news France: hydrogen city bus, solar panel threat to trees

French-made hydrogen minibus has been showcased to mayors, opposition to tree felling for solar panel park and vote for most beautiful tree

250-year-old acacia tree could be voted ‘most beautiful tree in France’; Hyvia hydrogen bus can run 300kms; St-Cirq-Lapopie in the Lot may see new solar panel farm Pic: Emmanuel Boltier(Terre Sauvage Magazine) / Hyvia / Jon Chica

Europe’s first Hydrogen urban minibus

Hyvia, the joint venture between French vehicle manufacturer Renault and Plug, a world leader in turnkey hydrogen and fuel cell solutions, showcased its latest hydrogen-powered minibus to France’s mayors in November, at the annual Salons des Maires in Paris.

Public transport is the key target market for the zero-emission Hyvia’s Master City Bus H2-TECH, the first hydrogen urban minibus in Europe. 

The vehicle is manufactured in France and set to be on the road by mid-2023. 

It can carry up to 15 passengers (nine seated and six standing with easy and safe access for people with reduced mobility) and will run autonomously for about 300km with five minutes refuelling time.

Hyvia was named as one of 10 “Important Projects of Common European Interest”. 

“The hydrogen revolution is on,” said its CEO, David Holderbach at the launch of the firm’s Renault Master Van H2-TECH at October’s Paris Motor Show.

Read more: Climate change: ‘We need greener fuels, not jet bans, in France’

Countryside threat at Plus Beau Village

The countryside view near one of France’s best loved villages, St-Cirq-Lapopie in the Lot, is under threat if a planned solar panel park goes ahead on the river plain below at the village of Tour-de-Faure, say opponents.

TotalEnergie plans to install 44,000 solar panels on the village’s plain within three years which, according to protest groups, means nearly 7,000 trees would be cut down. 

“It is a very old forest to which we are really attached, and it is a catastrophe to destroy trees at the time when [public] policy says that it is necessary to replant a billion of them”, said Marie Cordié-Levy, member of the environmental collective Lot Celé.

The elected officials who signed off the deal said they have already succeeded in reducing the size of the solar panel ‘park’ and had agreed camouflaging measures. 

They said the project would provide electricity for 15,000 people. 

“It’s a way to contribute to the development of renewable energy and to reduce the carbon footprint,” said Patrick Teyssèdre, Tour-de-Faure’s sans étiquette (independent/non-party affiliated) mayor. 

Read more: Green news France: 5% return on solar, recycled Route du Rhum boat

Vote for most beautiful tree in France

An acacia tree in Brittany with a trunk diameter measuring over five metres, is in the running to be voted “The most beautiful tree in France”. 

Hitherto unseen by the general public, the tree is located in a private garden in St Pol de Léon, Finistère. 

The manor house in whose garden it grows dates back to 1638, so it is likely that the tree is at least 250 years old.

Organised by Terre Sauvage magazine and the Office National des Forêts (ONF) since 2011, the ‘Arbre de l’Année’ contest rewards trees in France presented by individuals or groups and are selected for their naturalistic, aesthetic and historical characteristics as well as for the ties that bond the individual/group to the tree.

Some 14 regional candidates have made the shortlist from a longlist of 150 trees, with the public vote closing on January 4, 2023.

Read more: Vote for your favourite tree in France: Contest now open

Alongside the public vote, experts will pick their own favourite according to its botanical interest or its history.

Other magnificent trees on the shortlist include a chêne (oak) in Corsica, an hêtre pleureur (weeping beech) in Hauts-de-France, a ficus (weeping fig) on the island of Guadeloupe, a cèdre (cedar) in Nouvelle Aquitaine and a platane (plane tree) in Pays de la Loire.

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