Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Gothenburg gets battery buses

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In my in box this morning is a press release from Volvo announcing an order for 157 articulated electric buses to start delivery next year.

Volvo supplied image of a new articulated bus

What struck me is how much bigger this initiative is compared to what is happening here. Translink is trying out four buses on one route. Gothenburg is comparable to Vancouver in population: it “has a population of approximately 570,000 in the city center and about 1 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area.” (source: wikipedia) These buses are also much larger capacity than anything on the road here – 150 passengers per bus! You notice from their supplied picture that it has four sets of doors, not three as here. They will also charge at bus stops along the route “using the industry common charging interface OppChargeTM” – so I begin to wonder what was so ground-breaking about route #100. By the way the energy use of these buses is 80 per cent lower than that of a corresponding diesel bus.

But then Scandinavia does seem to be much more determined to create a truly green city than we are. Oslo, for example, has now removed on street parking in its city centre.  

“If you decide to drive in downtown Oslo, be forewarned: You won’t be able to park on the street. By the beginning of this year, the city finished removing more than 700 parking spots–replacing them with bike lanes, plants, tiny parks, and benches–as a major step toward a vision of a car-free city center.

“Without those parking spots, and with cars banned completely on some streets, few people are driving in the area. “There are basically no cars,” says Axel Bentsen, CEO of Urban Sharing, the company that runs Oslo City Bike, the local bike-share system. The city’s changes are designed, in part, to help improve air quality and fight climate change, but the difference in the quality of life is more immediate.”

As usual local businesses opposed the change, claiming its would hurt trade – but the outcome has been quite different. There are now more people in downtown – walking and cycling. Pretty much the same as our experience with protected bike lanes – which were opposed but have benefitted local businesses.

I am sorry that the timing of this post may be a bit awkward when the current labour dispute is top of mind. But it is clear that one of the major concerns of the bus operators is that traffic has got worse, and that Metro Vancouver in general – and the City of Vancouver in particular – has been a laggard in providing buses with priority on street which would go a long way to making services more reliable, schedules more predictable and life a lot easier for both passengers and bus drivers. Our politicians seem to be more concerned about the people driving cars – who are the ones causing the problems.

Clearly we need something like the system now in use in New York – but first we would actually have to put in the bus lanes!

UPDATE December 16, 2019 Paris has announced an order for 800 electric buses (source: World Economic Forum) to be delivered in time for its hosting of the Olympics in 2024

Written by Stephen Rees

November 5, 2019 at 10:58 am

Posted in transit

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  1. To be fair, I doubt that Gothenburg just up and ordered 157 electric buses out of the blue. It seems likely that they started with a pilot program, which is exactly what Translink is doing with the 100 route. It’s sensible to run this kind of a trial so they can evaluate the performance of the buses in our local conditions in order to best understand just what their infrastructure and operational requirements are. That way they’ll be able to better budget for and deploy the large order of buses that will no doubt follow.

    You may argue that perhaps TransLink should be further along the adoption curve. But electric buses with such large batteries are still maturing, and there’s a reason many people call early adoption the “bleeding edge”. It looks to me like TransLink is introducing change prudently, which as a taxpayer is pretty much just what I’d like to see.

    Sean Nelson

    November 27, 2019 at 12:06 pm

  2. Shenzhen, China has already a full fleet switchover to 16,000 electric buses and over 20,000 electric taxis.

    I have also seen posts on other sites talking about the need for buses to carry more people not batteries – i.e. trolleybuses which of course we retained when nearly everywhere else abandoned them. I think that we ought to have had system expansion, taking trolleybuses to more useful termini without needing to extend overhead wires, by simply adding poles to hybrids.

    There was also a short trial – about 6 months – with BYD battery buses on the #41. There has not been any publicly available report on that trial, so far as I am aware.

    Battery buses are far beyond the “bleeding edge” and we are nowhere near “early adoption”. But at least we are no longer at the mercy of daftness like the hydrogen bus episodes.

    Stephen Rees

    November 29, 2019 at 1:03 pm

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