E-buses & Charging Infrastructure
Cover Photo: Siemens AG
Cities that want to integrate electric buses and a charging infrastructure within their communities will be confronted with diverse challenges alongside this process. Many of them are of technical nature like the size of feeder pillars for on street planning, data availability and back office functioning, an under dimensioned network infrastructure or the overall reliability of the buses. Moreover, their maintenance and repairing can be difficult since these processes cannot be performed in the same quality as in ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). Additionally, pricing (about double of the normal price for diesel) as well as budget availability and secure funding can be considered as obstacles. Until today, there is no large production of these comparable expensive vehicles and not all kinds of them are available (>50 seats, 18 seats, 12 seats). Besides, there is a clear competition with bus fleet on 100% renewable fuel. There is also uncertainty about the charging locations since their required infrastructure needs to be integrated into the urban context. Furthermore, charging issues need to be performed within the framework of transport regulation orders. Furthermore, the bus drivers are often sceptical about this system, mainly due to range fear. Finally, the governance should consider the electrification of other heavy-duty vehicles as well.
To master the described challenges, cities should consider the introduction of clean air zones, the implementation of a congestion charge and the raise of additional tax to finance initial costs as policy recommendations. It is also beneficial to promote active and sustainable transport over car use. Persons in charge should also take advantage of the fact that citizens are generally welcoming sustainable transport and will appreciate the financial benefits since electricity costs are lower than fuel costs. The possibilities for action are diverse: Cities might demand an aggregation in the selected area and may approach suppliers with many cities and buses to force needs-based production and cost reduction. The procedure should follow the principle of trying and scaling up. In everyday life, real time information (via dashboards) should be provided to operators and well-trained drivers. The provision of a best practice guide to show how to transform from combustion to electric as an operator is also advisable. Furthermore, it is helpful to design an integrated monitoring framework that can capture the overall technical, environmental, economic, and social impacts and effects. Last but not least, cities may use innovative technologies that can balance the different electrical phases to avoid an overload and may apply flexible approaches when designing charging stations to increase efficiency.
Plan for Implementation
It is indispensable to accelerate a European approach on production. Currently, a lot of cheap production happens in China and does not meet up to EU requirements. As soon as electric vehicles are available, they can be rolled out to other cities and by adjusting the infrastructure, possibilities for upscaling and for widen the adoption of electric vehicles can be used. Overall, these projects should be considered as learning processes. Cities also need to identify how to show the qualitative advantages next to the quantitative advantages. Moreover, they can design and support partner cities in implementing a monitoring framework for the solutions and may help them to identify an innovative business model linked to it. Furthermore, electric feet representing 10% of all buses in the inner-city should be rolled out while introducing an electric BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system. Ultimately, all city buses should be electrified by 2022.