Are buses with a diesel-powered heater true zero-emission buses?

Most electric buses on the road are heated during the winter with diesel-heaters. So the question of how to heat electric buses properly cannot be easily answered. If an operator wants to use battery energy for full electric heating, the manufacturers would need to put double the amount of battery power on the buses. On 5 December 2017 about 50 experts from German speaking countries came to Bremen to discuss this question and alternatives. The event was co-organised by Verband Deutscher Verkehrsbetriebe (VDV, German association for public transport operators) as well as the Free Hanseatic City of BremenRonny Meyer, Deputy Senator for the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Ministry for the Environment, Urban Planning and Transportation, welcomed the guests and put an emphasis on the importance of electric buses and electric public transportation for air pollution prevention as well as for climate protection. „It takes about 100 electrified passenger cars to achieve the same results an 18m-electric full battery bus can achieve, because a bus runs up to 12 to 16 hours daily“.

Bremen, being one of the 16 German Federal Land/ state, started an campaign initiative called „factor 100“ at German Conference of Environment Ministers in May 2017 to set off a funding programme. During the so called „Dieselgipfel“ on 2 February 2017 (a summit dealing with the Diesel gate) chancellor Angela Merkel announced the funding programme for electric buses, which foresees 100 million Euro funding for the next 4 years annually. As the funding is foreseen for the additional costs in comparison with a standard diesel bus, the electric buses market can be boosted with potentially 400-500 buses annually.

Axel Dörrie, policy officer at the Bundesumweltministerium (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety) states there is no alternative to the electric bus, as „we need to get rid of fossil fuels for on street transport, to be able to reach the climate protection goals“. Today’s usage of diesel in E-bus heating systems is being perceived as a pragmatic approach and interim solution, being a necessary evil. Dr. Thoralf Knote from Fraunhofer IVI (Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems) supports: “The diesel heater consumes 4 litre on 100km only in wintertime, while at the same time the electric bus saves app. 40-50 litre of diesel per 100km in comparison to a diesel combustion engine“. Alternative fuels for the heaters like bioethanol were discussed as well. The present manufacturers of Cooling and Heating aggregates introduced heating pumps, which soon will be available on the market, as one solution to reduce the fossil fuel consumption of heaters down to real low ambient temperatures. Jens Schmitz from VDV showed in his presentation, at the moment are approximately 160 full electric battery buses running in Germany, towards the end of 2018 there will be 250 on the streets and there is interest for more than 600 within German transport operators. On the other hand only few manufacturers exist, that can provide buses with the daily range the operators would like to see on the market. Axel Dörrie presented details of the upcoming federal funding programs, starting 1 January 2018. In this new program mentioned above, fossil fuel powered heating will be accepted, to spur the market for electric buses. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017