Multi-pronged strategy needed to tackle climate challenge

Multi-pronged strategy needed to tackle climate challenge

Tackling the climate challenge in the transport sector will require a diversified response; no single technology addresses the entire scope of transport conditions. While battery electric buses will offer exciting opportunities in niche areas such as city centres, they will not be commercially viable in suburban traffic in the foreseeable future.

“We welcome and participate actively in the development of battery electric buses and are convinced that they have a bright future,” says Anders Folkesson, Director of Product Planning at Scania Buses and Coaches. “However, it is essential to recognise that at present other technologies can offer greater carbon savings.”

Multi pronged strategy needed to tackle climate challenge

A Scania running on ethanol.Photo: Arun H. C 2014

The battery electric bus carries a price tag that is approximately twice as high compared with a bioethanol or a biogas bus. Soundly sourced, this bus reaches a 90-percent CO2 saving. While the battery electric bus ostensibly is carbon neutral, that is contingent upon how energy is generated. With about  half of Europe’s energy produced from fossil fuels, the CO2 saving, in practice, is substantially lower. “Thus, by purchasing two ethanol or biogas buses we will achieve a far greater carbon reduction. And, by employing more buses, we can increase frequency in bus services and thereby convince more passengers to abandon their cars, which even further reduces carbon emissions.”

Public transport – for a more sustainable world

In major cities, suburb-to-city and suburb-to-suburb account for the largest share of bus operations in annual kilometres. Accumulated yearly distances of 100,000 kilometres per bus are not uncommon. For these routes, hybridised buses in combination with alternative fuels are best suited.  “The hybridised bus is an excellent solution and we are now launching a Class 2 bus, expressly designed for suburb-to-city operations and, with the growing phenomena of suburbanisation, traffic between suburban centres.”

A hybridised Scania Citywide.

A hybridised Scania Citywide.

“Instead of investing a large share of resources in a few spectacular demonstrations of cutting-edge technology while continuing to operate most buses on conventional diesel, allocation should be the other way around. How can we maximise CO2 reduction and how do we achieve the greatest positive results with limited tax money?”

Reaching a more sustainable world will require a greater share of public transport in passenger mobility. “That, in turn, requires making buses and bus systems more attractive,” Anders Folkesson explains. “For medium-distance commuter travel, for example, buses should be designed as mobile offices so that the journey itself no longer is perceived as a waste of time.”

A traffic light for buses in Mexico City.

A traffic light for buses in Mexico City.

Dedicated bus lanes

In inner city transport, buses must be given the right of way, through dedicated bus lanes whenever possible. “We should use streets in a smarter and more efficient way. Parking spaces along major streets and avenues are frankly a waste of space that could more appealingly be used for cafés, pedestrian pavements and bicycle paths.”

Expanding bus operations is, by far, the most economical and quickest way to enhancing public transportation, making use of the entire scope of biofuels and hybridisation “But”, Anders Folkesson cautions, “we must avoid putting our faith in one single, magical solution. Scania’s strategy is providing economically viable solutions, regardless of which technical alternative is selected.”