An exhibition hydrogen bus purportedly from Citybus’ parent’s joint-venture Wisdom Fujian was found to be a half-repackaged version of a bus made for beleaguered hydrogen firm Hyzon, a NASDAQ-listed firm itself accused of being a “repackaging of a flailing Chinese hydrogen-fuel-cell business covered in a glittering new wrapper of misleading deal announcements, illusory customer contracts, and fantastical financial projections.”
A backstage investigation of the Citybus-branded “Mission Zero” bus exhibited at the West Kowloon branch of the IMX Motor Show on Sunday found a “Wisdom” badge in a packet on the dashboard, not yet stuck to the front of the bus. An oval patch on the front of the bus, where a larger Hyzon badge had been removed, was still visible. The bus steering wheel, not clearly visible from the public viewing area, was still badged Hyzon, as were all the windows.
Wisdom, majority-owned by the same investors who own Hong Kong’s franchised bus firms Citybus and New World First Bus, insists it manufactured the bus, and that the Hyzon branding on the bus was for “marketing and licensing purposes” for sale in the US.
“In reality the factory forgot to remove the steering wheel badge as they should have done,” said Paul Bromley, newly appointed managing director of Wisdom Motors (Hong Kong). “For the avoidance of doubt, all buses you have seen and are shown as Wisdom are manufactured in our Fujian factory.”
The Hyzon link adds a new twist to the previously-exposed complex web of ownerships and partnership entangling Hong Kong’s Templewater-owned franchised bus firms.
In October, Transit Jam revealed millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money had been channelled into the Fujian-based joint venture providing a double-decker electric bus and a roving “publicity stunt” (as one expert called it) hydrogen showcase bus, dubbed by Bravo and Wisdom as the world’s first tri-axle hydrogen double-decker.
Hyzon is at risk of being delisted in the US, with analysts questioning its technology and its revenue claims, and the firm itself claiming “revenue recognition timing issues in China”. A class-action filing in the US claims Hyzon broke securities law, with the chief complaint being its largest customer, Shanghai Hydrogen HongYun Automotive Co. Ltd, was founded just three days before signing an MOU to purchase 500 vehicles from Hyzon.
Shanghai Hydrogen HongYun Automotive has just one primary shareholder, Kou Jian, which investigators say is headquartered at a building that has been closed for renovations for over a year.
A source said Wisdom would be “breaking out” of an agreement with Hyzon soon.
5+5 electric/hydrogen trial for 2023
Separately, Wisdom’s Paul Bromley told Transit Jam on Thursday Wisdom was “different to other Chinese companies” as it planned to focus on quality and to set up a local agent to run maintenance for the cleantech buses.
“We’re trying to leverage some of the manufacturing costs within China but building to an international standard and quality, such as the double-decker bus here from Bravo [Bravo’s other “Mission Zero” electric double-decker on display at the Asia World Expo branch of the IMX Motor Show this week].
When asked if the electric double-decker was still running the 22M route, Bromley said it “had been running” and that the company was working on a “Mark 2” upgrade to improve the vehicle, including improving space within the lower-deck saloon and enhancements to the air conditioning.
Passengers and experts alike, including Bromley in his former role as a consultant, had criticised the double-decker bus for its large battery packs reducing passenger space.
Speaking at Asia World Expo on Thursday, Bromley also said the government planned a trial of five more double-decker electric buses and five hydrogen buses next year, and that Wisdom and Bravo were part of a task force set up by Environmental Protection Department’s Kenneth Leung to investigate hydrogen on the road.
Bromley said the company was looking at landfill hydrogen as a source of the fuel, but at present would be “buying on the commercial market”.
Financial arrangements for the 10-bus 2023 trial were not yet agreed, he said.
Transport Department said it would not answer questions on the Hyzon issue, including whether it was Hyzon or Wisdom that had claimed manufacture of the bus on import and licensing documents. “You need to talk to the bus company,” a spokeswoman said.
A Bravo spokeswoman said, “For details of the bus, please contact the owner, Wisdom.”
Bravo did not answer questions on the pedigree or manufacturer of its other cleantech buses or why it would select buses made or rebadged by its financial cousin Wisdom without competitive tender.