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Clean Buses in Europe: Insights from Amsterdam conference in April 2018 [free access]

May 1, 2018

Global Mass Transit organised a conference on ‘Clean Buses in Europe 2018’ on April 18-19, 2018 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The conference brought together many experts from the government and industry, who are directly involved in the deployment of clean buses in European cities.


The speakers included policymakers, transit executives, transit managers, technology providers, and consultants. There were seven sponsors – Bae System, Ballard, Eminox, Hydrogenics, ITM Power, PitPoint and VDL Bus & Coach.


The key takeaways from the conference are noted below.


Abdeluheb Choho, Deputy Mayor of Sustainability, City of Amsterdam, The Netherlands spoke about Amsterdam’ plan to cut 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, in comparison to 1990 level. In 2016, the Government of Netherlands announced plans to deploy zero-emissions buses by 2025.


In April 2018, around 100 electric articulated VDL Citeas buses were put in service at and around the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, and on high-grade public transport lines within the Amstelland-Meerlanden concession route. This deployment represented Europe's largest electric bus fleet and is the first phase of a transition to achieve a total of 258 zero emission buses in 2021.


Perspective of Transport for London (TfL)


Tom Cunnington, ‎Head of Bus Contracts and Development, TfL discussed TfL’s commitment to make London a zero-carbon city by 2050. London has announced plans to procure only hybrid double-decker buses starting from 2018. TfL will deploy 12 buses in Low Emission Bus Zones and300 single-deck zero-emission buses for central London Ultra Low Emission Bus Zones (ULEZ) by 2020.


TfL has retrofitted diesel particulate filters (DPF) on all its buses with Euro II and III emissions standard, which has resulted in reduction of particulate matter (PM) from more than 200 tonnes in 1997 to 14 tonnes in 2011. In addition, TfL is currently retrofitting around 5,000 buses to meet the Euro VI emission standard.


TfL has conducted trial runs of hybrid, electric and hydrogen buses to estimate the environmental impact of each type of bus. It has tested plug-in series hybrid/ range-extended electric buses(under the ZeEUS Wireless Charging Bus Demonstration project), pantograph charging, and single-deck fuel cell buses.


Figure 1 illustrates the upcoming plans and challenges listed for deployment of hydrogen and electric buses.


Figure 1: TfL’s plans and challenges for zero emission bus fleet


Source: TfL


Clean Fuel Infrastructure


Jan Theo Hoefakker, Managing Director, PitPoint elaborated on two essential lessons learnt from the projects implement by PitPoint.


The first lesson was that authorities should set goals and not adopt tunnel vision for a specific technology. Rather than settling for deployment of a technology, the authorities should first select a possible fuel solution (such as fossil or renewable); assess feasibility (by estimating risk involved, technical and environmental reliability, financial viability, etc.); and finally optimise deployment of preferred technology through transition model and scenario comparison.


The second lesson was that cost of clean fuel is dependent on the scale of deployment. Cost of infrastructure for clean fuel has a higher share of fixed cost in comparison to the cost of fossil fuel.


Figure 2 compares the costs of fixed and variable infrastructure for diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), electric and hydrogen buses.


Figure 2: Fixed and variable infrastructure cost for buses by fuel type


Source: PitPoint


As per PitPoint, costs depend highly on scale and sourcing method. For example, although hydrogen costs are often estimated atEUR10/kg, they are higher in small scale projects (up to two buses) and lower in large scale projects (about 10 buses).


Electric Buses


Renske Schuitmaker, Analyst - Directorate of Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks, IEA was the moderator for ‘Electric Buses’ session. Ms. Schuitmaker opened the session with a discussion on importance of electrification and current status of the electric bus market.


Dorthe Nøhr Pedersen, CEO, Movia Public Transport, Denmark discussed Movia’s business model, current operator conditions, initiatives and participation in different for a, trial tests of electric buses, supplementary measure (infrastructure support), past experience of first full scale procurement and upcoming opportunities.


All bus services of Movia are put out to tender to private operators. There are currently 13 operators, each having four to 587 buses, who have long-term contract (running up to 12 years) with low operator risk and low profit margins.


Due to low profit margins, Movia needs standard solution with minimum risk. The operators have a tradition of using diesel-powered buses with high reliability and a transparent low total cost of ownership (TCO). The authority’s main concern is modification of its business model to adopt new technologies such as electric buses.


Movia has participated in various national and international for a (UITP bus committee, ZeEUs, JIVE, Nordic E-bus network) and conducted small-scale trial of electric buses. It has received grants from the European Union (EU) ELENA Facility (Horizon 2020 programme) for a transition from conventional fuels to electricity.


In addition to procurement of electric buses, Movia has developed a framework agreement for electric bus charging infrastructure in public area. The agreement introduces a third party for supplying infrastructure, electrification and maintenance for up to 12 years.


Movia is procuring 20 electric buses from Yutong under its first full-scale tender process. Recently, the authority published a tender to procure 46 zero emission buses for operations in and around Copenhagen.


Maarten Louwerse, Program Manager, GVB-Amsterdam, The Netherlands talked about Zero Emission Bus Project carried out together with the Amsterdam Transport Region and Municipality of Amsterdam. This policy aims at 200 buses emission free by 2025, around five years earlier than national target.


As per Mr. Louwerse, diesel is the incumbent and highly developed technology. Apart from emissions, there are no clear incentives to switch from diesel-fuelled buses to clean fuel buses. In addition, the emission free buses are still in development and some concerns listed by GVB are as follows:



The first phase of the Zero Emission Bus project will involve replacement of 20 buses of length 18metresand eight buses of length 12metres. Figure 3 illustrates the TCO approach for the first batch.


Figure 3: TCO outcomes and major cost drivers


Source: GVB


Based on TCO outcomes and infrastructure feasibility the Transport Region, Municipality of Amsterdam and GVB decided upon a tender to procure the first batch of buses (deploying opportunity charging technology) and develop one central hub location.


Ard Romers, General Manager, VDL Bus & Coach spoke about changing focus of authority towards sustainable energy sources and healthy city, as well as demand and delivery of operations. Mr. Romers talked about factors such as climate system, battery, charging, range, emissions, and time schedule that affect the selection of suitable electric vehicles. In order to implement a successful transition from diesel to electric buses, VDL has the following approach:



VDL electric buses are being tested in various cities of The Netherlands. The operators include Arriva in Hertogenbosch (VDL Citea SLF-120 Electric), Hermes in Eindhoven (VDL Citea SLFA-181 Electric), Arriva in Venlo (VDL Citea LLE-99 Electric), Arriva in Wadden Islands (VDL Citea SLF-120 / SLFA-180 Electric), Qbuzz in Drenthe and Groningen (VDL Citea SLFA-181 Electric), Connexxion in Amsterdam (VDL Citea SLFA-180 Electric) and Connexxion in Amsterdam-Schiphol – Schipholnet (VDL Citea SLFA-181 Electric).


Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Buses: Manufacturer’s Perspective


Martin Tröger, Manager, Business Development, Hydrogenics Power Systems discussed the fuel cells technology and solutions provided by the company. Hydrogenics offers one of the most advanced proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells for zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell electric buses.


Hydrogenics will deliver 1,000 fuel cell units to Blue-G in China for zero-emission electric buses. It is also providing CelerityPlus power modules for five zero-emission fuel cell buses to be deployed by SunLine Transit Agency, US. The California Climate Investments and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is funding the procurement.


Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Buses: Fuelling Infrastructure


Charles Purkess, Business Development Manager, ITM PowerPlc and Director, ITM Power Pty Ltd (Australia) discussed integrated hydrogen energy solutions provided for transport.


ITM has provided five operational hydrogen refuelling station (HRS) in the UK under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) project. Overall, ITM Power has a portfolio of 13 owned HRS, of which six are operational, three are under construction and four are funded.


Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Buses: Transit Agency and Fuel Cell Manufacturer Perspective


Nicolas Pocard, Director of Marketing, Ballard Power Systems moderated the ‘Transit Agency and Fuel Cell Manufacturer Perspective’ session for Global Mass Transit. Mr. Pocard discussed affordability and operations of fuel cell electric buses. More than 1,000 fuel cell electric buses are expected to be in service worldwide by 2020. Of these, around 600 buses will be in China and 319 buses in Europe.


The barriers faced by Ballard in implementation of fuel cell technology are technology awareness, total cost of ownership, and infrastructure for hydrogen.


Further, Mr. Pocard discussed how fuel cell technology cost has drastically reduced in past couple of years due to technology improvements and volume benefits. Fuel cell electric buses have a potential to offer a competitive business case as it offers a 1:1 replacement to conventional buses. Figure 4 illustrates cost of deployment of bus by fuel type.


Figure 4: Cost of deployment of bus, by fuel type


Source: Ballard Power System


Councillor Barney Crockett, The Lord Provost (Mayor), Aberdeen City Council, United Kingdom and President, HyER described the Aberdeen Bus Project, which is Europe’s largest fuel cell (FC) electric bus fleet deployment till date. The GBP19-million project began in 2010-11 and was completed in March 2015. It involved deployment of 10 FC buses and one production and refuelling station.


Mr. Crockett discussed some important lessons learned during the project. These included the following:



Further, Mr. Crockett shared his observation of technical failures being classified in three periods. Figure 5 describes the three periods.


Figure 5: Periods of technical failures


Notes: Nb – number

Source: Aberdeen City Council


During the teething period, there are a lot of technical failures but these can be fixed rapidly. During the wear period, the number of technical failures decreases but they take longer to fix.


The City of Aberdeen faced a lot of bus failures rather than FC failures (standard wear of components). Few challenges include:



Under the EU’s JIVE 1 project, Aberdeen plans to deploy 10 more hydrogen buses by 2019. The government has approved procurement of 20 additional buses.


Eirik Trygve Boe, Chair for the Committee for Planning, Environment and Economic Development, Akershus County Council, Norway discussed the Akershus Municipality’s plan to introduce hydrogen vehicles in Oslo and Akershus by 2025. The strategy aims to increase the number of filling stations as well as deploy 10,000 FC vehicles, including 100 FC buses and 500 FC taxis. Ruter will deploy around new 20 FC buses in 2018-19.


Under the CHIC project, Oslo deployed five 13.2-metre long FC buses in 2012. Van Hool has manufactured the buses and Ballard has supplied the HD6 Velocity fuel cell modules.


Figure 6 illustrates the share of various factors in total cost of project.


Figure 6: Factors affecting cost of FC bus deployment


Source: Akershus Municipality


Roger Kesteloot, Director General, De Lijn, Belgium discussed the High VLO City Antwerp project undertaken by De Lijn in 2015. The project involved deployment of five hydrogen buses at a cost of EUR8.15 million funded by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) and Flemish region.


Hydrogen is odourless and colourless gas, which can cumulate in roof constructions to form an explosive mixture. Mr. Kesteloot discussed the measures and steps undertaken by De Lijn to establish Hworkshop.





Steps undertaken:



De Lijn and Linde conducted the ‘Newbus fuel study’ for European hydrogen bus depots. The study demonstrated that hydrogen refuelling at a very large scale is technically and economically viable for serving large hydrogen fuel cell electric bus fleets.


Further, Mr. Kesteloot discussed potential deployment of FC buses and vision of FCH JU commersialisation study as illustrated in Figures 7 and 8.


Figure 7: Potential deployment of fuel cell buses


Source: De Lijn


Figure 8: Vision from FCH JU commersialisation study


Source: De Lijn


According to Mr. Kesteloot, large scale deployment of hydrogen buses, refuelling infrastructure and H2 prices are still too expensive. Although the fuel technology is in full development, economic options are expected from 2023-25 onwards.


Clean diesel buses


Carlos Vicente, Retrofit Sales Director, Eminox Limited discussed how retrofit technology in the UK is an important element of reducing NOx emissions and achieving zero emissions by 2050.Eminox has 20 years of experience in emission control, and has supplied more than 2,500 SCRT systems to TfL for London Buses and over 600 SCRT systems in other cities around the UK.


Figure 9 illustrates the UK Retrofit SCRT market, which includes all schemes to retrofit buses to achieve Euro VI compliance for NO2emission.


Figure 9: UK scheme to retrofit buses to Euro VI standard


Source: Eminox


The Government of UK is supporting retrofit initiatives through various funds such as the Clean Bus Technology Fund (GBP40 million), Clean Air Fund (GBP220 million), Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS), etc.


In 2017, Eminox, along with Amminex, Baumot Twintec, HJS and Proventia, secured a framework contract to upgrade around 5,000 buses to Euro VI emissions standard by September 2020.


Further, Eminox and Germany-based PURItech collaborated to supply retrofit Euro VI solutions for the German market. Around 28 regions and more than 60 municipalities from across Germany have been identified to take action.


Initiatives of C40 Cities


Caroline Watson, Programme Director - Transportation and Urban Planning, C40 Cities discussed initiatives undertaken in various cities for addressing climate change issues.


A total of 13 cities have committed to procure only zero emission buses from 2025 and ensure that major area of their respective city produces zero emission by 2030. The 13 cities include Auckland, Barcelona, Cape Town, Copenhagen, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Milan, Paris, Rome, Quito, Seattle and Vancouver.


Some of the initiatives taken by these cities include:



Ms. Watson stated that increasing demand for electric buses is expected to reduce battery prices such that electric buses could reach cost parity with diesel-fuelled buses by 2025-27.


Figure 10 illustrates the TCO comparison for electric buses configuration in medium-size city.


Figure 10: TCO comparison by type of bus for medium-size city


Source: C40 Cities


Further, Ms. Watson described various models to lower upfront costs. These include the following:



Biomethane Buses in Sonderborg, Denmark


Iben Nielsen, Senior Project Manager, Sønderborg Forsyning, Denmark discussed Sønderborg’s participation in SmartEnCity project, selection of biomethane buses, financing, technical specifications and lesson learned.


The SmartEnCity project, being implemented under municipality’s Strategic Energy plan for Green Transportation (SEGT), involves procurement of 39 biogas buses (to replace old diesel-fuelled buses), improvement of digital services and construction of biogas fuel charging station.


The biogas buses are expensive compared to conventional diesel buses, but the socio-economic benefits outweigh this extra cost.


Ms. Nielsen acknowledged the following lessons learned from the project:



E-Mobility in Netherlands


Maarten Post, Program Manager Intergovernmental Agreement Zero Emission Bus, Province Noord-Brabant, The Netherlands provided a perspective of lessons learned by transit authority in the deployment of zero emission buses. These lessons include the following:



The procurement of only zero-emission buses is expected to begin from 2022. Some mainstream challenges faced by the authorities are:



Financing and Procurement Strategies


Andrea Ferjencikova, Advisor to Vice-President, European Investment Bank (EIB) provided details of support provided by the EIB to the urban transport sector for clean bus fleet.


Project characteristics evaluated for funding approval:



Counterparty/ borrower/ promoter characteristics evaluated for funding approval:



Figure 11 illustrates the EIB lending considerations.


Figure 11: EIB lending considerations


Source: EIB


Figure 12 illustrates the EIB project cycle.


Figure 12: EIB project cycle


Source: EIB


Cleaner Transport Facility (CTF) supports accelerated deployment of clean transport technology and provides full range of available tools (financial/advisory) from EIB and the European Commission for public and private entities.


European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) is an initiative to overcome the current investment gap in the EU.


Wilko Mol, Director, inno-V talked about the various network concessionaires and tendering process for operations of zero emission vehicles. He provided the following observation from various case studies of zero emission vehicle concessions:





Jan Tijs Nijssen, Engagement Manager, McKinsey & Company shared insights on the shift from private cars due to shared electric vehicles (especially robotaxis).


Figure 13 illustrates mobility strategies for cities to make public transport more attractive and competitive.


Figure 13: New mobility strategies


Source: McKinsey & Company




The conference provided a platform to discuss the current status of and future outlook for clean buses in Europe. Most cities in Europe are looking beyond traditional diesel-fuelled buses to more environmentally-friendly and comfortable public transport buses. Even in the category of diesel-fuelled buses, the emphasis is on deployment on buses compliant with Euro 5 and Euro 6 emission standards.


The EC, national and local governments as well as bus manufacturers have launched various projects to improve the bus technologies for mass-scale adoption and understand the operating performance of buses with new technologies. 


This level of activity in the bus segment in Europe presents significant opportunity for consultants, developers, contractors, operators, bus rolling stock manufacturers, technology providers, fare system providers, equipment manufacturers, etc.