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Field test shows Volvo Buses’ plug-in hybrid reduces fuel consumption by 81% and energy consumption by 61%; 21 mpg

Volvo Plug-in hybrid_EN_2013
Volvo Bus’ plug-in hybrid. The pantograph for rapid charging can be seen on the roof. Click to enlarge.

Field tests being conducted in Gothenburg show that Volvo Buses’ plug-in hybrid reduces fuel consumption by 81% and total energy consumption (diesel plus electricity) by 61% compared to a comparable Euro 5 diesel bus. (Earlier post.)

The field test in Gothenburg began in June 2013 and includes three plug-in hybrid buses, the batteries of which are rapidly recharged at the terminals. This makes it possible for the buses to run on electric power for most of the route.

The plug-in hybrids are based on the Volvo 7900 Hybrid, Volvo Buses’ second series-produced hybrid bus model. The plug-in hybrids have been further developed, and enable rapid recharging from electricity grids via the Opbrid Bůsbaar pantograph on the roof.

The 4-cylinder, 5-liter Volvo D5F diesel engine produces 215 bhp and is installed vertically. The conventional hybrid offers up to 37% fuel savings compared to a diesel version and 40-50% lower exhaust emissions. The plug-in versions have a larger battery pack, making it possible to drive up to 7 km using electricity only—about 70% of the route distance. The batteries are charged at the bus terminus via the Bůsbaar for between six and ten minutes.

Our performance results are even slightly better than we had anticipated. The plug-in hybrid consumes less than 11 litres of fuel for every 100 kilometres [21 mpgUS]. That’s 81% less fuel than the equivalent diesel bus consumes.

—Johan Hellsing, Project Manager for the field test at Volvo Buses

In addition to the significant energy savings and reduced impact on the environment, this technology gives passengers a more comfortable and pleasant journey and improves the working environment of the drivers.

Although there are many long, steep gradients on the routes, the plug-in hybrid buses can run on electric power for about 85% percent of the time. The diesel engine only kicks in when the bus needs some extra power. The test drivers from GS Buss really appreciate the quiet, vibration-free ride that you get with an electric powered bus.

—Johan Hellsing

The field test of the plug-in hybrid buses in Gothenburg involves 10,000 operating hours and will continue for most of next year. A demo project that will bring eight more plug-in hybrid buses into service will commence next year in Stockholm.

A number of European cities are showing an interest in the plug-in hybrids. Hamburg and Luxembourg have already signed contracts for supplies of the buses in 2014 and 2015. Volvo Buses is working together with the city councils, public transport authorities and providers to develop long-term sustainable solutions for public transport. Volvo Buses plans to commence commercial manufacture of plug-in hybrids towards the end of 2015.

Those engaged in the plug-in hybrid project in Gothenburg are Volvo Buses, Göteborg Energi, Business Region Göteborg, Trafikkontoret and Västtrafik. The project is co-financed by Life+, the EU’s financing program for environmental projects.



Trollybus, seems like a definition of terms in in order.
If you are saying the "steetcars" are better than BRT, then define the term.
BRT is defined, I don't know what you mean by steetcar.


Trollybus was not listed and streetcar goes to Tram.

They look like light rail with overhead wires.
Ugly and run into cars.
In San Jose, the first light rail cars smashed into cars turning left every day. Disruptive indeed.


@Harvey "Esthetics" are subjective, some of us think streetcars are beautifull. On installation costs? Yes, buses are cheaper. But on operating costs? No. On costs overall? Maybe: The biggest operating costs are fuel, maintenance, and driver wages. With diesel buses, and their fuel use, operating costs are clearly great enough to push overall costs above streetcars but with e-buses wages become the deciding factor, so it would depend on how strong your city's unions are and how long your stops allow the trains to be (number of passengers divided by each driver).

@SJC You don't know what a streetcar is?!? A streetcar(street car)/tram/tramcar/trolley/trolleycar(or trolley car) is a rail vehicle which runs on tracks along public urban streets (called street running), and also sometimes on separate rights of way. They can also be single "car" tram/trolleys or multicar trains. They can also be powered by electricity, which was the most common type historically, were once called electric street railways.

History is why trolleybuses (buses that are operated like trolleys) are called what they are.

When GM et al conspired to end streetcars in North America they found their buses were unpopular with both passengers AND businesses. The passengers were easy enough to sway, they just bought up the streetcar companies and ran them to fail while keeping bus fares too cheap to cover costs. Businesses were a harder nut to crack. Many had been built along streetcar lines because they could rely on the trolleys to transport customers and workers to their doors: A railline in the street is not an easy thing to move so they knew the service was going to continue for years even if the streetcar company went under, it would just be taken over by another streetcar company. Bus routes on the other hand need no more infrastructure than a stop sign on the corner so they could be (and often was in those early days) changed overnight with no warning. To placate the businesses the bus companies went to the added cost (at the time) of electrifying their buses with overhead cables - just like the trolleys had. This gave the businesses a visible infrastructure that they could be sure was NOT going to be moved/remove/changed for years to come.


Streetcar/tram are the same thing. North Americans use "streetcar" while Europeans call them trams.


Ugly and run into cars.

You can say the same thing about buses. They are ugly and, yes, they also smashed into cars every day. It's just such a common thing it doesn't make the news any more. Disruptive indeed. The answer to buses having traffic issues with cars is to give them their own right-of-way, but then that works for streetcars too so what's your real problem?


My "problem" is you and others that think cities can spend tons of tax payers dollars on steetcars to nowhere.


And you think it's better to spend tons of tax payers dollars on buses and their upkeep?

Yes, streetcars cost more to install. But once it's in the operating costs are lower than the operating costs of buses because they are electric, carry more passengers per length of vehicle (and can be made longer still because tracked vehicles follow the track), and have lower replacement costs because they have longer service lives. What the overall costs are (installed + operating) depends on the local situation and the system you choose. And whether a city wants to pay for either buses or streetcars, or go with private cars depends on whether they think making it easier for people to get to work to earn tax dollars is a good idea or not.

And let us not forget BRT requires separate right-a-ways which costs "tons of tax payers dollars" and can go to nowhere too.


The most effective way to move people in a large city is certainly with subways but it may not be the most efficient or cost effective way due extreme high initial cost of subways.

Many cities cannot afford or are not willing to invest (up to $100,000,000/Km) in new subways and settle for lower cost monorails or much lower cost ICE and/or future e-buses.

China is an exception, where subways can be built four times faster at less than 25% the above cost.

What is logical for one city may not be economically doable in another place. Beijing is getting 400+ Km of new subways in the next 4-5 years while we will add 400 new e-buses/year and less than 10 Km of new subways.


Monorails? Unfortunetly in America monorails carry the "Disneyland" label so transit authorities here are unlikely to invest in them. If you want to see monorails in action the place to go is Japan. Japan has the highest concentration of monorails in actual urban revenue service. Most monorails there appear to serve in special applications in extremely dense and highly congested urban conditions or as feeders to conventional, heavy-duty rail systems.

Interestingly enough the "Disneyland" feel of monorails acts as a plus in cities that benefit from tourism because visitors get to see & tour the place from a high point.


Another thing about monorails that keep them from being used more often is 'standardization' or rather the lack of it. If a city goes with a conventional rail system they know that if they should need replacements they will be able to shop around for rolling stock because they're all made for the same standard rail. But with monorails, well every manufacturer wants to sell you THEIR system which includes THEIR rails. There are about 7 different rail types and they come in different sizes too. If you buy from a company with a novel system you may be stuck with buying their rolling stock forever, and if you're their only buyer they could go out of business leaving you up the creek.

Bob Wallace

Having spent some time in both Bangkok and Delhi before and after they got their subways (both cities) and Bangkok its SkyTrain I just can't see buses ever delivering that sort of speed. We'd have to build new cities with special road for buses only. Roads with no cross traffic, pedestrians, etc.

I'm not seeing an advantage for inner-city rail/street cars. We already run street trams on rubber wheels that pull power from overhead wires.

And I'm not sure we will need the overhead wires. We've got buses that run with batteries and recharge during the short times they stop for passenger loading and unloading. By having frequent place to charge we can avoid the long charge stops.


Bob, like I said before, it's about overall costs. Even after you solve the fuel cost issue by going electric there's still driver wages vs passengers carried. In someplace like Bangkok or Delhi, where labour is cheap, even buses win.

Bob Wallace

Even in places like Bangkok and Delhi, time is money.

Bangkok's SkyTrain and Delhi's subway are getting a lot of ridership. Bangkok's subway, last time I rode it, was building ridership. It's been a couple of years so I'm not sure if it's crowded yet, but it will get crowded.

Buses are simply too slow for long distance travel in many cities. They're great for the "few blocks" stuff because they're accessible at street level and they can go places where subways don't go. But in really crowded cities they often don't move faster than walking speed during commute hours.

We need a variety of transportation modes.


This is true. My city also has a Skytrain system: It has three lines with a total length of more than 68km, top speed is 90km/h, and average speed with stops is 28km/h. Much better than buses.


One thing is certain, future city people transportation systems will be all-electric.

1. The fastest most effective but also the most expensive system are underground subways. High initial cost but low operation cost. One driver can move up to 1000 passengers. Ideal in all large cites, specially where initial construction cost is low.

2. Streetcars, were for many decades, lower cost on-ground subways but they had their times. Cheaper to operate but they interfere too much with other vehicles. Not ideal in cites with lots of snow.

3. Monorails and skytrains are other lower cost alternatives to underground subways. Lower operation cost and a worthwhile alternative. Already in successful use in many Asian cities.

ICE, hybrid and e-buses are the most flexible and by far the lowest initial cost. However, they are the slowest and the most costly to operate, specially with unionized drivers at $125,000/year each. ICE units create the most air and noise pollution. Future hybrids and specially future e-buses will be almost as green as subways but will never move people as fast.

A mix of underground subways and various size autonomous e-buses may be a wining alternative.


Well, if we're going to talk of future city transportation systems the way to go is Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). The need for large vehicles that carry lots of people goes back to the need to keep driver wage costs down. But if you can automate the system you can have smaller vehicles that only carry 1-4 people each. High carrying capacity can still be had because smaller vehicle are cheaper so you can have more of them. Being smaller they are also lighter so the guideway can also be lighter and therefore lower in cost too, so you can put in more trackage: Instead of transit lines you get a transit grid that covers a city instead just connecting one point to another. To work you need each vehicle to steer itself through the grid and go off the line at station stops - automation makes this possible.


I saw a story today that underscores how mass transit can be more beneficial than just moving people around:

Anyone who has taken a ride on the London Underground knows that it can be a sweltering experience – even in the dead of winter. Right now, all of that sweaty heat is going to waste while folks above ground throttle the thermostat to warm up their homes. That gave London’s mayor and a city think tank a great idea: harness the heat of the Tube to warm London residences.

The plan was created in collaboration between Mayor Boris Johnson, Islington Council, UK Power Networks and Transport for London. The project will divert heat from a large ventilation shaft to a thermal network that connects to hundreds of homes. The scheme is the first of its kind in Europe, and it’s part of the Mayor’s initiative to reduce carbon emissions in the city by 60%.

Not only will the plan cut energy bills, it will also help ease the city’s severely taxed energy network, which is particularly important since London experienced one of its coldest winters ever last year (and this year is shaping up the same). “We need to do everything possible to create a more secure, cost-effective and sustainable heat and power supply for London. By supporting locally sourced energy and heat networks which can reduce bills and lower carbon emissions, we can not only save money but also drive innovation, jobs and growth in this burgeoning sector,” said Matthew Pencharz, the Mayor’s senior advisor on environment and energy.


If it works in London, it should be possible to do in most current underground subway system?

Could the collected heat be trsnsformed into low cost electricity and/or domestic hot water in summer time?


Electricity? No.


Volvo is not the only one doing this;

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