How can electric buses be a business case?

At the moment, the case for electric buses being introduced is mainly an environmental one. Accordingly, transport companies expect financial support for the introduction of new systems, as the investment costs are quite high.

However, the fact that electric buses can be economical over their life cycle is rarely considered. With its forthcoming report on business cases, CIVITAS ELIPTIC partner RWTH Aachen University wants to show possibilities and ways of making e-bus systems attractive; not only for ecological but also for economic reasons.

To this end, detailed studies were conducted in four cities, each representing a technological concept, namely:

  • Oberhausen - Opportunity Charging using energy from the tram grid, DC side;
  • Barcelona - Opportunity Charging using energy from the metro grid, AC side;
  • Bremen - Overnight Depot Charging;
  • Szeged - On-Route Charging with Trolley Hybrid Buses.

A series of three workshops were held with partners to collect and validate cost and operating data. This data was evaluated using extensive simulations to determine the total costs of ownership (TCO). These include all relevant technical equipment, but no personnel costs.

The results show that the pure demonstrations are not economical at first glance. They are characterised by high investment costs for infrastructure with a small number of buses, which makes little sense.

However, the picture changes dramatically when looking at the electrification of an entire route. Infrastructure costs are significantly reduced, and in comparison with diesel buses the lower energy costs, caused by higher system efficiency and lower prices (especially when connecting to an existing public transport grid), become apparent.

Considering this and assuming the same system availability, the electric bus system is already almost as economical as a comparable diesel bus.

The results for electric buses are even better if a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is carried out, which takes environmental costs resulting from emissions of pollutants and noise into account. The figures are based on sources from the German Federal Environment Agency and the European Commission's Clean Vehicles Directive.

The report from RWTH Aachen will appear on the ELIPTIC website during summer 2018.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018