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Published on March 4th, 2018 | by Jacek Fior


300 Electric Buses Make No News In Poland

March 4th, 2018 by  

Poland is quite far from being a leader in the rEVolution and we normally get overly excited when things, even small ones, move in the right direction — EV enthusiasts go as far as to celebrate openings of EV charging stations!

So much the more, I was amazed to learn that one Polish metropolis, Katowice, is planning to purchase 300 electric buses and very little is said about it in the press or social media.

Not long ago, we were all thrilled to report that Shenzhen went 100% electric with its fleet of 16,359 buses, which dwarfs the entire bus fleets of major US and European cities, and all Polish media covered the story. Facebook cleantech groups also shared and liked it like crazy — me too, naturally. BIG story.

So, why didn’t the local news hit the media frenzy? Ordering 300 electric buses is practically unprecedented (or completely unprecedented?) for a city outside of China*. Isn’t this even bigger news than Shenzhen’s mere 16,000 electric bus fleet?

Shenzhen leading the electric bus revolution. Source: chinabuses.com

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to play down what China is doing for the electrification of all transport, and ever since I started following EV-Volumes team, I have been impressed with the scale and vision there. Still, I would like to look at the two cases with the right proportions in mind.

Let’s start with size — Shenzhen is about 5 times as big as Katowice Metropolis, with 2.2 million people in Katowice and 12.5 million in Shenzhen. It’s interesting to see the disproportion in the total number of buses as well — Shenzhen with its 16,359 buses easily beats Katowice’s 1,000 total, even if we take into account the population difference factor of 5 (I  bet I could write a separate article on transportation habits of Polish people and how it contributes to the smog we complain so much about). Now, looking at these figures, the 300 buses is 30% of the whole fleet — that’s a lot! It is also more than all electric buses in Poland today. When you compare it to the total number of EVs in Poland, and that is a staggering number of 1,600(!)**, you can see the figure does look impressive.

Yet, I say it again: it was mostly not covered by local media and sparked little, or no, enthusiasm nationwide. One obvious explanation for this could be our national skepticism and lowered trust in political declarations. And this is political. And it is declarative. And so the excitement is put on hold.

One of the Polish pioneers in electric buses — Jaworzno***. Source: Agencja Gazeta

The thing is, we should celebrate. It must be political, otherwise there would be no funds for such projects. It must be declarative, as a politician’s job is to make promises (yes, our prime minister also promised 1 million EVs in the near future 🙂 ). And we shouldn’t hold the excitement back, as getting enthusiastic will only put more pressure to move from political and declarative to real.

Katowice Metropolis is not just a city. In fact, it is a just established conurbation of 41 cities and communes and a team of young and motivated officers (one of which is our secret source) putting in sweat and ideas to make it happen.

Map of the Metropoly. Source: www.gzmetropolia.pl

It is also the most industrialized area of Poland and used to be the heart of Polish coal mining. It still is, in a way, but things have changed and they have changed for the better. It is quite reassuring to see how the region is leading the way now in the rEVolution and how cities are learning to deal with the black heritage. No surprise, then, that they jumped on this project funded by National Center for Research and Development to introduce emission-free public transport. By the year 2023, the region will have purchased 300 electric buses, with 85% contributed by NCRD. That is a good deal, right?

Part of the arrangement is that Katowice Metropolis will run tests on the efficiency of the electric buses and applied city solutions. That will provide good material for future developments in public transport and a real revolution of going 100% electric. I can’t tell you how much I would like to report “Shenzhen case” in Poland. It’s coming, I know it’s coming. We just need a little longer. Electric buses will make the news quite soon. Shenzhen had announcements before it achieved any milestones. It took years from commitment to a full transition to electric buses as well.

P.S. Since Poland is hitting the news for the wrong reasons recently, please make sure you don’t believe everything the media quotes, as they are quoting politicians with their agendas and prejudices, not real people. I also promise not to judge your wonderful countries by what your politicians say/do. 😀

*See: China 100% Electric Bus Sales “Just” 89,546 In 2017
**That’s out of over 20 million registered cars in total.
***Related: Polish City Plans Autonomous Car Zone That Includes Entire City 


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About the Author

Jacek is an entrepreneurial type who sees opportunities all around. He runs his own corporate language training company and international translation agency, Better Horizons. One of his many passions, besides card tricks and mixology, is electric cars and their introduction on the market. He is currently working on launching the Polish platform of CleanTechnica — cleantechnica.pl — in the hopes of helping people to understand the revolution we are witnessing. Jacek is also a founding partner of Tesla Shuttle.

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