Solaris Urbino Hybrid (Kevin.B, CC BY-SA)
Polish local authorities are increasingly involved in the purchase and testing of electric buses to reduce pollution in city centers, as reports Rzeczpospolita daily. Taking advantage of EU funding are not just the big cities like Warsaw, Kraków, Łodź or Białystok but smaller provincial towns such as Rzeszów and Jaworzno. Operating or testing buses Ostrołęka, Inowrocław, Zakopane and Lublin amongst others. Warsaw already has ten units operating, with ten more on order for next year. Kraków has 20 already with 17 more to come.
Ostensibly, the benefits are clear; cleaner air in the cities, lower running costs. Doubter point to the higher purchase costs PLN2m per unit as well as the need to replace tired batteries every few years. Problematic too may be the method used to charge- plug or tram-like pantograph.
But Polish manufacturers may benefit greatly, Solaris based in Bydgoszcz has its Urbino Electric, Volvo in Wrocław the 7900, and Ursus the Ekovolt, currently operating in Lublin.
The trade-off between the battery, range and power is the key relationship
Mike Halls, Editor of Batteries International magazine a leading publication in the energy storage market told CE Financial Observer “e-buses are cleaner for cities in that they don’t pump out NOx and other poisonous stuff into the air the way diesel buses do.”
“It is right to point out that coal is being burnt at the power stations and knocks out greenhouse gas emissions, i.e. CO2 is pumped out just round the corner. But the mix of power generation doesn’t mean it’s always the case, a huge chunk of French electricity is nuclear for example, natural gas plants burnt less CO2 and don’t add sulfur to the atmosphere (though at high altitudes sulfur is a wonderful coolant for the earth). At the same time we’re seeing a wave of renewable energy from solar panels and the like entering the power mix. And that is the future,” Halls said.
“I don’t know the commerciality of e-buses but I don’t think they are so expensive up front, the issue is always about when the batteries aren’t fit for purpose — will that be eight years, 10 or even longer. It would be fair to suggest that lithium battery prices will continue to come down and the cost issue less important. But electricity is cheaper than petrol, since buses are constantly being used there could be (and I’m pretty certain there are) substantial savings to offset this,” Halls added.
“The trade off, is between power density and energy density — how fast say you can make the bus go as against how far it can go. For a bus you’d be looking for the ability to go long distances not accelerate. So you’d choose high energy density batteries. Last point I’d make is that e-buses are going to be huge. China’s buying them in the 10s of thousands,” he continued.
On this last point the figures are indeed staggering. According to the China Electric Bus Industry Report 2015-2020, in 2014 out of 500,000 buses operating 80,000 were electric. Sales in 2014 were up 160.3 per cent comparing to the previous year, with 27,000 units sold. With a support in the form of subsidy and tax-relief the report estimated that by 2020, the figure could be as high as 300,000 (70 per cent of all public buses).
One interesting feature of this trend in Poland is that city streets may well see a return of the trolley-buses – a cross between a bus and a tram (having overhead power lines as a power source). This hybrid went out of fashion in many Polish cities by the 1980s and 1990s. Ursus has its T70116 operating in Lublin – and which has an auxiliary motor that may take over power in any emergency. Cities such as Gdynia and Tarnów still have their trolley-buses. The first ones in Poland example operated in Poznan in 1930.