Electric buses are an important strategic building block on the way to a sustainable society. 50 percent of city buses are to be electric by 2030. The German government is supporting this expansion with subsidies. The Vereinte Energiegenossenschaft eG (VEG) also wants to make its contribution.
The traffic turnaround is in full swing. Many companies are working to replace fossil fuel vehicles with electrically powered vehicles. Environmentally and climate-friendly electro mobility is reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and pollutants in road traffic. Especially in extended urban areas, air quality is improved and noise pollution is reduced.
The automotive industry is therefore in a state of upheaval. This upheaval is particularly evident in the costs of research and development. In 2013, for example, a total of 31 billion euros were still being invested in this area worldwide; by 2017, this figure had risen to 43 billion euros. The reason is the development towards electric mobility.
Electro mobility is an important element in the strategy to trim Germany's economy to sustainability and thus ultimately also to achieve the climate goals of the Paris Agreement by 2050. It is also intended to ensure clean cities - a topic that has recently come into focus because of the fine particulate pollution caused by diesel vehicles.
For this reason, electro mobility should also gain momentum in local public transport (ÖPNV). The Federal Government supports this project. On 6 February 2019, Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), gave a speech at the 10th conference of the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) (website in German), underlining the importance of electro mobility in public transport.
"We should set ourselves the goal of completely electrifying our public transport bus fleets within the next ten years."
Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary at the BMU
German and also European cities have committed themselves to follow the political guidelines and to use only electric buses for public transport within the next ten years. At present, 55,000 diesel buses are used in public transport. The potential is therefore enormous. That is an ambitious goal. What does the development look like one year later? According to the VDV (website in German), the number of battery-powered electric buses used in public transport is rising continuously. The technology and reliability of the vehicles is also getting better and better. According to estimates, there are currently about 400 electric buses on German roads on behalf of the local public transport system. By the end of the year, this number is expected to reach 1,000, according to the VDV.
However, there were still major challenges in the financing and infrastructure of the electric bus fleet. Electric buses are still significantly more expensive than diesel buses. VDV President Ingo Wortmann describes the problem as follows:
"The transport companies continue to electrify their bus fleets and invest in the conversion of depots and workshops. It is pleasing to see that the electric buses are becoming better and more reliable. Nevertheless, they are still considerably more expensive than a modern Euro 6 diesel bus, and the electric buses still have to improve in terms of range. We need at least 250 kilometers for a stable urban bus service; currently, the electric buses only manage 150 to a maximum of 250.
VDV President Ingo Wortmann
In addition to the high acquisition costs of an electric bus, manufacturers are currently experiencing supply bottlenecks. The sharp rise in demand means that they cannot keep up with production, as many towns and communities would like to and must electrify their local transport.
This is precisely where the Vereinte Energiegenossenschaft eG (VEG) comes in. The cooperative from Hamburg is dedicated to promoting energy efficiency, renewable energies and energy storage possibilities. Among other things, VEG invests in various block-type thermal power stations and offers its own green electricity tariff. In this way, VEG wants to actively help shape the energy revolution.
A new field of activity of VEG is the conversion of old diesel buses to electric buses. VEG has already taken the first steps in this direction in cooperation with various partners. One of the partners is I SEE Mobility GmbH. The specialist for the conversion of conventional diesel buses to electric buses has developed an electrification KITs for MAN buses as a first step. The conversion can thus be carried out by various specialised workshops. The result is certainly worth seeing.
Six battery packs from the Webasto Group will be installed in each bus, which corresponds to 210 kW/h or a range of approx. 200 - 300 kilometers. To make electric buses interesting for public transport, they must achieve a range of at least 250 kilometers. The batteries installed guarantee more than 6 million kilometers of charging cycles and reach 80 percent of their full charging volume within one hour. The design of the battery packs has been developed to be particularly space-saving, so that up to ten packs can be stacked.
This is supplemented by an OnBoard Charger from Brusa, which can be charged with 800 Volts. The compressor with a steering aid from Moteg GmbH can be placed freely in the bus thanks to its compact design and low weight. It also offers quiet running performance and is cost-efficient due to the use of fewer components.
A major challenge is the reengineering of electronic communication in the vehicle. Due to the removal of the diesel engine, the bus lacks communication between the cockpit and the engine. This leads, symbolically, to phantom pain in the bus. To find these, I SEE has developed a software which is adapted to all components of the KITs to be installed.
After successful retrofitting, the converted buses are to be leased to local public transport companies. This relieves many cities and municipalities of high acquisition costs and long delivery times. This also fits perfectly into the sustainability concept of VEG's CEO Marc Banasiak, who wants to "initiate positive developments" with the cooperative.