Recent studies on air pollution in cities have fuelled the debate on increasing the number of electric vehicles in cities. Deploying electric vehicles (EV) has become a key pillar for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the transport sector, as they are considered to improve air quality, decrease noise levels and contribute to a healthier environment for citizens. Despite those well-known advantages, urban decision-makers are facing several challenges in converting their bus fleets.
The main challenges that local policy-makers have to face when deciding upon the deployment of electric bus fleets, are linked to the complexity of procuring charging infrastructure, limited electricity supply, technical and operational restrictions, as well as economic limitations and cost concerns. Moreover, there is still a lack of trust in the viability of the EV-technology.
Münster as a front runner city of EV buses
Nevertheless, the German Covenant Signatory Münster has decided to become a frontrunner city in terms of electric buses. In 2015, it was one of the first cities to sign a contract with VDL Bus & Coach, including 5 Citeas SLF-120 Electric buses. Four of these had been financed by the EU Commission’s ZeEUS (Zero Emission Urban Bus System) project. The fifth had been financed by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, supplemented by aid money for the development of the charging technology.
Circulating on line 14 within the city, those five battery buses had already covered a distance of 140,000 kilometres by end of 2017. This year, the buses will be supplemented by further five EVs, which can each transport 80 people . While the current buses can run for 50 kilometres until they need to get charged at one of the three stations, the new ones will be equipped with a battery allowing the buses to run for half a day.
Additionally, Münster's bus fleet will be supplemented by two hydrogen buses in autumn this year. Equipped with a fuel cell on board, those buses produce electricity from hydrogen releasing only harmless water vapour into the environment. Not only are those buses especially environmentally-friendly, they moreover have the same range of conventional diesel buses (400 kilometres). Subsequently, the buses can be charged at the public hydrogen filling station in Amelsbühren.
In order to be well prepared for the implementation of the hydrogen buses after summer, the city had carried out tests with a hydrogen bus borrowed from the Netherlands. Following those primary tests, which, according to the spokesperson of the Stadtwerke Münster, were “highly successful”, the city borrowed the bus again last week. For the pilot project, staff needed to be trained, charging stations needed to be constructed and garages had to be adapted.
With an electric bus fleet of seven buses, which account for ten percent of the city's buses, Münster will be saving not only Co2 emissions, but moreover costs and free up key funds for more investment in safe, clean and sustainable public transport.