Are Electric Vehicles the Future of Mass Transportation?
Big cities around the world are at a crossroads for sustainable transportation: They need to find a way to combine mass transportation for billions of passengers while minimizing their environmental impact. Electric transportation popularity seems to be on the rise, but is there really any other durable solution?
When upgrading or changing your public transportation fleet, as a city, there are many factors to consider. One, of course, is the cost. There is no doubt that electric buses are still way more expensive than traditional buses. But, in the long term, they are cheaper to run than diesel buses and the health of citizens and the environment should be priceless.
There are currently two main trends for city centers that are trying to upgrade their bus fleet: sticking with existing hybrid buses (the cheapest option) or upgrading the entire fleet to electric-powered vehicles.
Sticking with already existing hybrid buses allows the city to combine minor fuel-powered and electrical battery systems while sticking to a budget. The idea is the same as hybrid cars, of course, but when it comes to transporting larger groups of people in bigger buses, it gets tricky.
Switching an entire fleet over to electrically-powered vehicles, however, allows a city to take a fully-innovative approach. The idea here is simple: you have a battery, you charge it, and the bus runs.
Powering and maintaining a fully-electric fleet might seem too simple, but many components are involved when designing the bus: the size, the weight once loaded with passengers, the capacity of the battery, how long it takes to charge it, the topography of the route, etc.
City centers have needs to make the life of their inhabitants and tourists happier: buses need to be green or pollution-free while being as quiet as possible, and, most importantly, practical and convenient.
Once we add up all of these requirements, the electric bus is far ahead of traditional fuel-powered buses, or even electric buses. Many cities are willing to make that initial investment even at the higher price, as long as they know it will benefit them in the long run.
The city of Manchester (UK), just unveiled its first fully electric buses. Built by Optare, these electric and environmentally friendly buses will join the existing fleet of the Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM).
“We are focusing on developing full electrical solutions. Today the UK market is about 2% electrical, and I’m proud to say that 100% of the 2% is mine (…) we purely trust in the electrical solutions for the future of technology,” said Enrico Vassalo, CEO of Optare, to RouteOne
India is also opting for these kinds of buses, with the Ashok Leland Optare Versa electric bus, to be launched by 2017. Having electric buses in a country like India, would greatly help the government cut down its national carbon footprint. In fact for the world’s most populated countries, China and India, it had become a necessity.
Besides the bus manufacturers, several world-leading companies are taking off as more and more innovations are required to make the move.
That’s the case for Forsee Power, a French based company specialized in integrating battery systems. For them, working close to the bus builders and the cities’ transportation policies is crucial and they are reshaping the range and power capacities of tomorrow’s buses.
“Forsee Power is the only player in France with an offer that covers all the necessary power range to meet all bus electrification needs,” said Forsee Power’s CEO Christophe Gurtner.
The Parisian public transportation system recently expressed its wish to renew its fleet fully by 2025. The battery integration system is one of the key components and the French capital can count on its local resource in that sector.
Even if hybrids still have a long lifetime ahead of them, the most efficient investment when truly thinking sustainable mobility or just thinking in terms of energy/cost remains to be the electrical bus.
There will be a time where tourists all around the world question the few remaining traditional buses that pollute, with both CO2 and noise. That will be the moment when we know the final transition into a green and sustainable transportation culture has been made.