EV Bus Route 55 — Gothenburg’s First Electric Bus Route Now Running

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The first fully electric bus line in Gothenburg, Sweden, recently opened (on June 15) — bringing the region one step closer to transitioning away from diesel buses entirely.

The emissions-free, and nearly silent, buses on the new all-electric Bus Route 55 are also apparently being provided with electricity via hydroelectric and wind energy facilities — meaning that the bus route is about as “green” as it gets.

In addition to the under-the-hood improvements (electric engines, fast-charging hookups, etc), the new bus route also features buses outfitted with a variety of customer-oriented changes — power outlets and indoor bus stops, amongst other things.

A recent press release provides more information:

Buses powered completely by renewable energy will now be part of Gothenburg’s public transport system. Bus route 55 has three completely electrically driven buses and seven electric hybrid buses, all of them from Volvo Buses. The buses on the route, which runs from Chalmers Johanneberg to Chalmers Lindholmen, through the center of Gothenburg, are equipped with onboard wi-fi and phone charging facilities.

The buses run on batteries that are quickly recharged with renewable electricity at the terminal stops. The Chalmers Lindholmen stop has an indoor terminal, which is made possible by the fact that the buses are silent and emission-free.

“The Volvo Group aims to be the world leader in sustainable transport solutions. A unique collaboration in Gothenburg enables us to launch the electric bus route here and remain a leader in the development of future public transport,” stated Niklas Gustafsson, Chief Sustainability Officer, Volvo Group.

The new route is intended to serve as a showcase for new bus transport solutions — ideally working to spur fast adoption of such technologies. As well as improving local public transportation options, of course.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

James Ayre has 4830 posts and counting. See all posts by James Ayre

20 thoughts on “EV Bus Route 55 — Gothenburg’s First Electric Bus Route Now Running

  • Wonder what the efficiency difference is between overhead power and batteries. I think that overhead, while less attractive, is greener. No batteries in the equation.

    • About a 10% loss when charging batteries.

      There’s a lot more infrastructure with overhead wires. And probably a lot more resistance based on aesthetics.

      • That’s just the power loss. There’s also the added weight of the battery pack, which (slightly) increases power used per mile. And of course, the embodied energy of a battery is higher than that of a bit of wire.

        A smaller battery pack paired with overhead chargers at each bus stop rather than only at the termini could offer a decent compromise between aesthetics and efficiency.

        • I read the original question as a comparison of battery powered buses and catenary system.

          Whether a larger battery pack or a smaller pack and on-route chargers will work out to be the best solution will await more data. It could well be that there will be roles for each.

          I can see a point at which we might move to all batteries as battery capacity grows larger than it is today.

          • That’s how I read it too. I just suggested that equipping buses with pantographs and adding overhead chargers at bus stops is a compromise that gives you some of the benefits of a catenary system (smaller battery pack) without its visual intrusiveness.

            Bigger and cheaper batteries might be enough to shift the economics towards a fully battery-powered system, but the environmental balance will never change – batteries will always have a large embodied energy and weight as well as some charging losses (barring some radically new battery chemistry being invented of course).

            By the way, are catenary systems that ugly? Even if you think they are, consider this: some cities have suspended streetlights and some signage from the crosswires supporting the tram wires. I find the result much more attractive than a street marred with ugly lampposts and signs.

          • Whether buses charge once a day (night) or every few miles the charging loss will be the same. If the embedded energy costs in larger battery packs is significant then that will tip the economics toward smaller packs and more frequent charging.

            I’ve yet to see an overhead wire system that meets my standards of “looks good”. I’ve seen beautiful street lamps.

            (We need a new generation of beautiful street lamps that use LEDs. Not just bleak-modern, but something that looks appropriate in historical districts.)

          • You have a point about ugly. There are power wires everywhere, yet catenaries are ugly?
            I get this same thing looking at distant wind turbines with gas stations, roads, power lines, buildings, smokestacks..
            and yet we hear the same complaint about the way wind turbines look.

            When you think about it harder…
            whats the point of objecting to the catenary and ignoring the ugly road?

          • Best not to justify an ugly with another ugly.

            Over time it would be great if we could move all wires underground.

          • That leaves us with how to make a road beautiful. Burma Shave signs?

          • More barns painted with “See Rock City” signs….

            The pavement, itself, is not likely to get pretty. But we can do something about the other stuff.

    • Besides cost for the rigid infrastructure, there are security issues with the overhead power lines. In general, the fire departments are against overhead power lines in Sweden.

  • Volvo is headquartered in Gothenburg, so local patriotism and influence may have played a part in the decision. IIRC BYD’s first big electric bus order was similarly local. Such orders don’t tell you much about the underlying competitivity of the products.

  • My original idea was to make it possible to introduce electric buses anywhere, with the minimum amount of infrastructure. Catenary systems are fine, but very difficult to plan and get approval for. Years of work. These charging stations for the Volvo buses are small, localized and easy to put up and take down, and relatively cheap compared with catenary.
    As far as batteries, my opinion is that is far better to “burn” batteries than petroleum. They last many cycles, and they are even somewhat recyclable, try that with burned hydrocarbons! However, if you are using coal for your electricity, it is better to stay with diesel. Coal powered electric buses are worse than useless, emitting far more pollutants and CO2 than diesel.

    • Bus operators do not have whims. They have routes, known to the last yard. What sort of “problem situations” do you have in mind that would justify the very large extra cost of the hybrid powertrain?

      • A massive traffic jam in late evening on a hot day with the batteries getting low due to a parade, a bridge out because the toll booths are closed, construction. Buses generally use the public thoroughfares which are not always so predictable. As to the extra cost, what is the extra cost for oversizing the battery pack to handle all conditions? My guess it is about the same. You either have a huge battery pack for all day service which is somewhat inefficient, or you have an opportunity charged fully electric bus with typically 3X or 4X the amount of batteries needed in “normal conditions” to get to the next charger. This oversizing of batteries isn’t needed in the plugin, you just use the right size for the route, and depend on the diesel for backup. Diesel or extra batteries, your choice.

    • Polluting right where a lot of people are breathing with a diesel engine is not great, and electricity is greening due to renewables increasing competitiveness.

      • Not everywhere. Some places in the US have green electricity, others use almost 100% coal, and they don’t seem too willing to change. In areas that use coal for electricity, better to use natural gas or Euro 6 diesel engines.

        • Agreed with CNG for your car, but diesel – even Euro 6 – is a double edged sword.

          While rather decent in the carbon emissions department, a Euro 6 diesel vehicle still comes with considerable health costs. Real world measurements (as published in peer reviewed journals) show significantly higher NOx and PM emissions than the idealized testing cycle used for measuring Euro compliance.

          If you belong to the minority for whom an EV is not optimal due to your driving pattern or the local electricity mix, I’d go for CNG – assuming you can refill nearby. If not, consider a petrol hybrid. An efficient pure petrol engine like the Ford Ecoboost 3-cilinder could be a decent budget alternative if you’re an infrequent driver.

        • Find us a US grid that is not getting cleaner.

          • Google eia power monthly. April coal was just over 30% and 36% for the last 12 months. Down from a high of arounf 50%. Also look at the planned retirements, and additions. These numbers don’t include rooftop.

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