Urban public transport is about to become more sustainable. Innovative electric bus technologies with different charging infrastructure solutions are likely to transform the bus fleets of European cities in the coming years, improving air quality and noise levels.

Tomas Byberg, CEO of the bus company Byberg & Nordin, knows what the transformation looks like: ”We deployed our first electric buses in Härnösand and Sollefteå one year ago. I am fully convinced that they will be very common in urban transportation systems in the future. The environmental advantage is considerable and the technology is progressing. The buses are silent and energy-efficient”.

Next stop: electricity

byberg1Several Swedish cities are electrifying their bus networks, and Sweden has some of the world’s leading bus manufacturers. The new technology benefits both manufacturers and clients: fossil fuels can be replaced with clean energy, and air and noise pollution is eliminated. Public transport will be more accessible when it can pass through residential areas without causing disturbance, and it will even be possible to drive buses inside malls or other indoor premises; in Gothenburg, for example, an experimental route had an electric Volvo bus making a stop inside a library.

”We currently have three electric buses in service. We have one VDL Citea Electric, a high capacity transit bus, and two Iveco Rosero Electric midibuses. The midibuses have 28 seats between them”, Tomas Byberg says.

”The large bus operates for 3 – 3.5 hours at a time, one shift in the morning and one in the afternoon. Between shifts, the bus is charged for a couple of hours. The smaller buses are in service for 7 hours straight. The buses cost twice as much as conventional vehicles to purchase, but we save money on fuel during operations. Electric buses will surely be an even better investment in the future, as the technology continues to become cheaper”.

”I am particularly thrilled by one of the buses. It has two in-wheel hub motors manufactured by Ziehl-Abegg, and it is amazingly silent and comfortable to ride. With the hub motors, there is no need for a drivetrain. This makes the bus more silent. It also reduces the cost and need for maintenance, since without moving parts, there are fewer points of failure. Furthermore, the system is very energy efficient. A combustion engine can reach an efficiency of 20-30 percent – the rest of the energy is lost. A conventional electric motor kan be 85 percent efficient, but a hub motor kan reach 90 percent. The technology only has one drawback: it is expensive”, Tomas explains.

”Västernorrland County Council’s public transport executive board and Härnösand county stipulated that the buses had to meet strict environmental standards, but refrained from specifying certain technologies. Instead, operators were given the freedom to choose the most appropriate technology, which was a good decision. It allowed us to purchase our first electric buses.”

ZeEUS brings electrification

”I stadstrafiken har elbussarna många fördelar jämfört med konventionella fordon. Inte minst med tanke på luftkvaliteten och bullret”, säger Tomas Byberg, som är vd för Byberg & Nordin.

”In urban environments, electric buses outperform conventional vehicles in many aspects, like air quality and noise”, says Tomas Byberg, CEO of Byberg & Nordin.

ZeEUS (Zero Emission Urban Bus System) is a demonstration project funded by the European Commission, which aims to extend the fully-electric solution to the urban bus networks of European cities. The Swedish partners involved in the project are Volvo Bus Corporation, Vattenfall, SL and Viktoria Swedish ICT.

ZeEUS is a 3.5-year project with a budget of €22.5m, more than half of which is EU funded. It is considered to be an important landmark in the creation of a sustainable urban public transport system. The ultimate objective is to electrify the majority  of the urban high capacity buses (extending 12 m in length) in order to reduce climate impact, improve urban air quality and decrease noise.

The core of the project is to bring together direct experiences from eight demonstration sites across Europe. One of the cities is Stockholm, where Volvo’s electric hybrid buses will be running. The demonstration projects will operate with buses that already are or soon will be in series production. In total, ZeEUS will test 35 bus technologies and a wide range of charging infrastructure solutions: slow charging in bus depots; fast charging at bus stations, terminals and stops; charging by induction, catenary, and contacts.

Nevertheless, there is no new thing under the sun. In Berlin and other places, electric trams largely replaced animal power in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, for economic and hygienic reasons; horsecar trams produced large amounts of manure, which the streetcar companies had to dispose of.

Environmental award for fossil-free bus fleet

Västernorrland County Council’s 2015 environment prize was awarded to Byberg & Nordin and Härnösand county for their deployment of carbon-neutral public transport.

”Härnösand is very progressive, working actively with both electric buses and biofuel solutions. About 30 biofuel buses are operating in Härnösand; the biodiesel is produced from from vegetable and animal oils and fats in slaughterhouse and fishery waste, reducing carbon emissions by 90 percent. There are also two fully-electric buses running, and Härnösand now has the country’s first fossil-free public transport system”, Tomas Byberg says.

The article was published in May 2016.