Electrification of Bus Public Transport in Utrecht

Context of Transport Climate Action

Qbuzz is a new public transport company in the Netherlands. Sustainability is central of the company’s objectives and it is always looking for new ways to take action in environmental issues.

After winning the tender for the provision of public transport in the Utrecht area, it was decided that to start a small project to drive with three full electric vehicles as part of the regular bus service.

This has been the starting point to explore the road to shift to zero emission.

Description

A simple and action based approach was taken to developing the project with the lietmotiv ‘just do it’. No expensive consultants were hired and it was organized and implemented internally – with ‘the boys from the floor’.

The goal was to make electric bus driving as easy as it is in a normal bus. The three Optare busses where chosen because they had already made electric busses with a plug in charging system. However a new induction (wireless) charging system made by Proov was out into the buses to trial. Proov is a small Dutch company who have developed an Inductive Power Transport (IPT) system for charging the vehicles while in operations ( www.proov.nl).

With this technology, it is possible to charge the bus on bus stops and the buses ‘take a sip’ of charge to top up in the short period while passengers are getting off and on.

Implementation

The bus drivers operating an electric bus require additional training and information.

Qbuzz started with driving in the bus depot and providing the bus drivers with instructions on driving techniques and how to take a charge while the bus was in service. This is different from regular diesel bus driving because driving an electric bus is very different. A frequent complaint from them was about speed and noise as they were unaware of their speed and they had to check the speedometer to see haw fast they drive more frequently as there is no noise. It was interesting to note how strongly people associate noise with speed.

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The positioning of the bus when charging needs to be very accurate. For the induction charging to work the coils set into the street pavement under the bus need to be perfectly aligned with the receptors in the bus. A 10 cm margin of error is all that can be allowed in any direction ( forward/ backwards/left/right). In daily service this is not easy to achieve as bus drivers are also taking care of the passengers and their safety as well as driving the bus. The idea of the camera has provided a solution for this (See instructions for the bus drivers ( only available in Dutch) in the link attached).

Once this challenge and several other small technical issues had been overcome the reliability of the bus service increased for only 10 % at the start of the project now up to more then 90 % (September 2015).

Benefits

The main benefits are felt in the center of Utrecht as these busses do not produce any CO2, NOx or other dangerous local pollutants. In addition, they make little noise or vibrations compared to a diesel bus which are appreciated by the local citizens.

Potential for scaling up

It is expected that this project will be scaled up from 3 to 11 or more buses within the city and Province of Utrecht.

This project can be scaled up as the business case has shown that the capital investments in the vehicles can be comparable to diesel buses with gains in energy savings. However the capital investments in the inductive charging infrastructure is still a barrier. Furthermore there has been a rapid change in attitude and a wider acceptance of using electric buses recently.

Selected reference

www.qbuzz.nl

www.proov.nl

PROJECT INFORMATION

Location:

Europe-Netherlands

Start:

2014

Finish:

Still in progress

Tags:

Netherlands, Mitigation, technology, Passenger, Busses

Organizer/s:

Qbuzz Public transport.

Contact/s:

Mr. Han van der Wal, Manager Fleet & Facilities Mail : han.van.der.wal@qbuzz.nl Tel : +31 615 028 249

You have to be patient, take your time, listen to advice, sleep well and be awake when smart people give their opinion! All this and you can make a difficult problem to an easy solution.
-Mr. Han van der Wal,
Manager Fleet & Facilities