The South Transdanubian Regional Innovation Agency Nonprofit Ltd. (STRIA) as the Hungarian partner of the eBussed Interreg Europe project intends to support the electric bus deployment in South Transdanubia. The intention of making public transport greener is present in the two biggest cities of the region – i.e. in the county seats of Baranya and Somogy counties of the South Transdanubian Region – in two different ways. Below we enclose a short summary of two solutions applied.

Compressed natural gas buses at Kaposvár – 2015

In the Somogy county seat, Kaposvár, the Kaposvár Közlekedési Zrt. (Kaposvár Transport Co.) on 10 November 2015 deployed 25 solo and 15 articulated MAN compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. The procurement of these buses amounted to 4,2 billion HUF (13,5 million EUR),with the co-finance of the European Union (97,5%) and using the own financial resources of Kaposvár City of County Rank (the remnant 2,5%).

By deploying the new buses the noise pollution caused by public transport decreased to one-third, and the operation of CNG buses also became more economical – the fuel costs halved. Given the fact that the Kaposvár sugar factory of the Hungarian Sugar Co. produces biogas in large company quantities, the annually produced one million cubic meters renewable energy source, among others could be used for operating the buses. The transport company and the sugar factory cultivates tight business relations in this regard.

In the city of Kaposvár exclusively CNG buses provide the public transport for the 33,000 passengers that use the service daily. As for the continuation of the developments, in 2019 with a budget of 5,5 billion HUF (16,8 million EUR – one third coming from the European Union, whilst the two-third from the Government of Hungary) a new bus garage and maintenance-examination base was built. Its capacity is significantly higher compared to the local Kaposvár needs, and by initiating further, new technological investments it could provide electric bus maintenance and general bus overhaul services, targeting further cities beyond Kaposvár, too.

It is to be enhanced that CNG fuelled vehicles in comparison with the diesel powered ones have reduced impact on the environment, their particle-free operation mitigates the risk of the lung, further respiratory and cancer diseases, also decreases the premature deaths caused by heart and vascular health problems and diseases.

Advanced MAN CNG fuelled buses on the new bus garage and maintenance-examination base of Kaposvár Transport Co. – August 2019


Electric buses in Pécs – 2020

On 31 July 2020 the bus public transport of the region arrived at further important milestone. The Municipality of Pécs City of County Rank (seat of Baranya county) procured 10 solo BYD electric buses co-financed by European Union grants of the Integrated Transport Development Operational Programme, and on the quoted day the solemn handover of the vehicles took place on the main square of the city. At Pécs currently 180 buses are in operation to provide public transport service for the daily 50.000, passengers.

The 10 new buses – that made Pécs the biggest e-bus fleet operator in Hungary – decrease the operating costs of the municipality-owned, urban and suburban passenger transport company called Tüke Busz Zrt. (Tüke Busz Co.), at the same time increase the prestige of the city, too. The 12 meters long vehicles are manufactured in Hungary, in Komárom, where BYD has its own bus assembly factory, using Hungarian labour coupled with the highest industrial technology level production. The 1,7 billion HUF (4,7 million EUR) Pécs public transport project, besides the purchase of the e-buses, included building a new garage that is capable for charging the vehicles as well. The procurement and installation of the charging infrastructure was also part of quoted European Union co-financed project.

Similarly to the Kaposvár CNG project, these electric vehicles are also quiet during their operation, have not any polluting particle emission, and contribute to the healthier air and more environment friendly public transport of the biggest city of South Transdanubia with a short of 150,000 inhabitants. The investment effected is in accordance with the National Bus Strategy that entered into force in 2019. The strategy sets that from the beginning of 2022 only electric buses could be deployed at Hungarian settlements that have more than 25.000, inhabitants.

In case of Pécs the procurement of the electric buses is not without precedents. The project was well supported by candidacy of the city to the European Green Capital Award in 2014 and 2016. Although the applications of the Baranya county seat town were not successful, but the move towards electric mobility was integral part of the two elaborated applications. The handover of the 10 buses at the end July 2020 therefore means a beginning of the systematic replacement of the diesel buses of the Pécs municipality to electric ones. Among the plans for the near future the continuous test operation of an electric articulated bus has a priority.

Last it is necessary to highlight that the energy supply for operating the electric bus fleet comes from the 10 MW built-in capacity photovoltaic power plant of Pécs. The energy generation facility was handed over in 2016 and was implemented by using a more than 4 billion HUF (12,6 million EUR) European Union co-financing that was made available to produce, store and use local renewable energy.

Solemn handover of BYD electric buses manufactured in Hungary at the main square of Pécs on 31 July 2020Source: Magyarország Kormánya / Facebook

Consultation with the operation and development director of Tüke Busz Co.

In order to obtain more information on the newly procured BYD electric buses of Pécs and on the business model behind this fleet-operation, on the morning of 3 August 2020 STRIA had a meeting with the operation and development director of Tüke Busz Co, Mr. Tamás TAVI. On the meeting the representative of the Open Inno Ltd., subcontractor of STRIA assisting the domestic and interregional project experience exchange process also attended.

Besides the above mentioned European Green Capital Award applications, Tüke Busz Co. in 2016 elaborated a Green Strategy with a subtitle of „Green way to green buses”. The document, among others, addressed the main decision points of fleet replacement, its investment need and the linking sustainability aspects, the electronic ticketing, and the information technology solutions for public transport. In the strategy the most severe operating problems of the Pécs bus transport company, and the aspects of implementing sustainable company operation were also observed. In terms of the strategy Mr. TAVI added that from the very beginning of the Pécs diesel bus fleet replacement that started in 2012-2013 – it was the period when younger and less polluting diesel buses replaced the obsolete ones – they were convinced about the necessity of procuring electric buses.

The cover page of the Green Strategy of the Tüke Busz Co. – 2016

Source: Tüke Busz Zrt.

The 10 BYD e-buses that were purchased in accordance with the Hungarian law on public procurement are low floored, air conditioned ones, being equipped with USB charging points, capable to transport 64 people, have 13,000 kgs unladen kerb mass and 19,000 kgs maximum total mass. Buses have 348 kWh capacity battery pack that could be recharged during four hours by using the 80 kW (126 A) power, so called slow battery chargers. The vehicles, used under normal load, with three bus stops on one kilometer route, have 386 kilometers range. Further particularity is that compared to the fuel cost per kilometer of a diesel bus (150 HUF – 0,43 EUR), the electric bus consumes a fraction of that (28 HUF – 0,08 EUR) during one kilometer route. This latter favourable figure will generate a very significant fuel saving as the average annual mileage of one Tüke Busz Co. bus is 80,000 kilometres. The new e-buses are on test drive during the course of August 2020, and will be in daily, scheduled operation from 1 September 2020 on.

The operation and development director also mentioned that the public procurement documentation of the Pécs e-buses is exemplary for further territorial, regional hub towns and cities to develop their urban and sub-urban transport. This statement remains valid in case we consider the fast paced development of the technology. In such regard there are three main aspects to consider: the energy density, the price of the battery pack (which constitutes 30-50% of the total purchase price of an e-bus), and the mass/use of space ratio. In case the mass of the vehicle decreases, moving of the bus requires less power, and that results in a need for a smaller capacity battery pack. This, as a consequence, results in a more competitive electric bus price compared to the purchase price of the diesel bus.

On the consultation further issues that are related to the elaboration of the Hungarian Status Quo Report of the eBussed Interreg Europe project to be delivered by STRIA were also discussed. These topics were centred on the decision making process and its involved actors of the procurement of electric buses, the dilemma on whether procuring a vehicle or purchasing an e-public transport service, the issue of fleet services provided. Similarly the management aspects of e-bus electricity/battery charging and related information technology, the training of e-bus drivers and the implications of that to the labour market of bus and coach drivers, plus the establishment of the regional dispatch centres-maintenance/service bases of large bus manufacturing companies were addressed. These all generate further challenges, as, for example, in the urban planning profession: the forecasted decrease of individual car use results in more parking lots become unused, and this will most probably be complemented by trend that the young generations keep on moving into urban centres, instead of choosing their place of residence in the suburban areas. These all forecast increased e-mobility and as part of that, more intensive needs for electric buses.

The eBussed project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and Hungary.