The Central Danube Development Agency (CDDA) actively supports the work of the South Transdanubia Regional Innovation Agency (STRIA) during the implementation of the Hungarian action plan of the eBussed Interreg Europe project. In such a context, CDDA made available to us its own three-person expert group consisting of traffic and electrical engineers. Experts with decades of experience in their respective fields in low-emission local and intercity public transport contribute to our work in the Central Danube Priority Area (CDPA). At the same time, the CDPA is the area of intervention on which the eBussed action plan also focuses.
On 6 February 2023, the meeting took place on the Zoom platform, focusing on the topics as follows:
1.) reducing the environmental effects of urban and suburban bus transport by preparing for digitization and testing new solutions, and
2.) increasing the efficiency of the electric charging network.
The first topic – which is also the 1st action of Hungarian eBussed action plan, i.e. its 1st area of intervention – was e-bus-focused training for the staff of local public transport companies. In this regard, for the time being, we cannot talk about the comprehensive training of those working in the field of operation, maintenance and management, or the professionals of local governments dealing with transport. The obstacle to this is that the manufacturers of electric buses mainly pass on the special handling and sometimes maintenance knowledge of their own products only. A general electric bus training template or curriculum cannot be developed due to the special nature of each bus. Taking into account the content limitations, the digital solutions are rather narrowed down to making a few general-focused knowledge on the topic of electric buses available to the local bus companies and the municipalities that own them.
The fact that it is necessary to manage the changes associated with the deployment of electric buses with appropriate information tools – even with an independent strategy – is also related to the first topic. Here, the focus must be on the bottlenecks: the new tasks posed by the charging infrastructure, the necessary changes in building regulations, and the significant financial needs of the low-emission or green transition (purchase of chargers, sites, buses). Equally important is the use of locally produced and locally consumed energy, preferably from municipally owned solar parks or smart grids. All of this requires a supportive attitude on the part of public transport and local government workers, especially when the price of previously cheap electricity – as well as the price of diesel fuel widely used in public transport – has risen significantly.
Solaris electric bus in the central settlement of the Central Danube Priority Area, Paks
In connection with the second topic – which is the 2nd action of Hungarian eBussed action plan – i. e. increasing the efficiency of the electric charging network, the experts participating in the online consultation highlighted the fact that in Hungary, the battery packs of electric buses are basically charged at the depot of the vehicle fleet. With this charge, the vehicles can transport passengers for a full day.
If charging solutions different from the above are taken into account, the pantograph and inverse pantograph type chargers installed in bus stops should also be mentioned. These charge the vehicles while they are at the stop, so the batteries of the electric bus are supplied with electricity at several charging points along the entire route. The disadvantage of the solution is its huge investment requirement, while the advantage is that the smaller battery pack enables the transport of more passengers. However, this solution is not recommended either in Paks or in the main settlements of CDPA that are not yet equipped with electric buses, such as Szekszárd, Dunaújváros and Dunaföldvár.
The particularity of the charging infrastructure is that the charging equipment itself is not standardized, so it is not easy to convert different chargers. Therefore, in the case of different buses operating in different settlements, it is not possible to talk about uniform chargers that can be used everywhere.
As an additional possibility, based on the example of the trolleybuses of Budapest and Szeged, charging them with electric, current-collecting (pantograph) vehicles from overhead electric wires can be considered. This means charging for electric buses for a limited time “en route”, i.e. in traffic, during driving time.
To conclude the second topic, the experts noted that it is recommended to use a battery pack with the appropriate capacity and on-site charging in the area of CDPA in local public transport. If we are talking about inter-urban public transport, it is also recommended to store electric energy in hydrogen fuel cells and to use these cells, if there is an opportunity to produce green electricity locally.
At the end of the online discussion, the CDDA experts said – as far as the area of the CDPA is concerned – that Pécs, which has the largest electric bus fleet in Southern Transdanubia with BYD and Mercedes buses, also considered the possibility of charging at the terminus of each line. In Kaposvár, where two articulated, electrically driven Ikarus buses are in service, this question did not arise. The implementation of charging at the end station of lines is limited by the cost of the investment, which means a solution with a higher capacity on-site chargers than the depot chargers, not forgetting the significant investment required and the necessary electricity network development.
The eBussed project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and Hungary within the Interreg Europe Program.