Among apartment houses and shops in Östersund, Sweden, yellow Scania buses silently circulate the streets. At first glance, it is the colourful bus that catches attention. But as it passes by, it’s the clean air and the lack of engine noise that is most notable. Why? They are electric.
Recently, Scania delivered seven out of ten electric city buses to passenger transport company Vy Buss. The remaining three will be delivered in 2022. They are part of the Östersund’s long-term future investment for the transition to completely fossil-free transport.
The new generation Scania Citywide LF buses will start to operate in September 2021, and add to Vy’s fleet of electric Scania buses that already circulate the streets. Other city bus lines are operated on renewable biofuels.
“The collaboration with Scania has worked really well. The traffic has been running smoothly, regardless if the temperature is 30 degrees plus or minus. Today about 25 percent of the city’s bus traffic consists of electric buses and now we add more to the fleet,“ says Jens Rempling, Business Manager at Vy Buss, who has run a field test in Östersund together with Scania since 2017.
A fossil-free transport
Östersund is located in the province Jämtland by the shore of Storsjön, the fifth largest lake in Sweden. The city stretches along the eastern slopes, creating rather step alleys towards the lake. Nature is constantly present and the contrast between the town and nearby mountains makes the city unique. Also, the people of Östersund are investing for a fossil-free future.
The electric buses are an important part of transforming the entire transport sector in Östersund. The transition to fully fossil fuel free transport is driven by a partnership between the municipality, companies, organisations, regional- and national authorities. The electric bus project started in 2017, and in December that same year, the first timetable for electric bus traffic was created. In March 2018, the first electric buses from Scania were delivered and started to operate.
“We were early in creating a charging infrastructure for electric cars and now continue with electric buses and establish pantographs and charging stations,” says Magnus Andersson, Chairman of the Environment and Society Committee, responsible for public transport in Östersund. “We have a climate strategy with 74 different objectives and view this as essential in our aim to become fossil-free and energy efficient by 2030.”
Region Jämtland Härjedalen is the regional public transport authority with political and economic responsibility for public transport in the area, as well as future development. The city’s new electric buses are another step forward.
“It is important that we deliver an attractive and modern public transport, to attract more people to travel by public transport,” says Marie Nordmark, Area Manager public transport, Länstrafiken Region Jämtland Härjedalen.
Passenger surveys show that 78 percent are highly satisfied with their electric bus journeys and 66 percent rate travelling with electric buses as better or much better than trips with conventional buses.
“The electric buses contribute to more attractive journeys for our passengers and a better urban environment. They are quiet, they do not emit exhaust fumes and is environmentally friendly,” says Nordmark.
The buses come with dual charging capability and can be charged both at depot and in-route. However, most charging takes place via pantograph at charging stations. When the bus arrives at the charging station, the driver makes sure that the bus is placed correctly, and the electrical outlet on the roof is connected to the pantograph. The entire charging process takes no longer than 6-7 minutes.
“The pantograph charging gives the bus enough energy to power the whole trip, before returning to the other end station where they are recharged,” says Rempling.
In addition, the electricity for the buses comes from locally produced hydropower in Billsta stream in the Jämtland region, where three small-scale power plants produce renewable energy.
A sustainable transport system for the future
The world is changing and the transition to a sustainable transport system is the future. Leif Unander, Sales Manager at Berners Tunga Fordon points out the key to success in Östersund.
“This project has been successful due to close cooperation between all parties. We have all strived for the same goal – to create a more sustainable city,” says Unander and sees a trend of inquires of renewable fuels. “For the majority requests it is a mix of battery-powered vehicles, biofuels and hybrids, but fossil-free dominates.”
“The buses are reliable and electrification has been favourable for the work environment of our drivers and not least for Östersund’s residents”, says Rempling.
The electric buses contribute to a lower climate impact and a better urban environment.
“It feels good both for us and for the residents of Östersund. We are proud of being at the forefront of developing sustainable transport systems for the future,” Rempling concludes.