One of the most significant adoptions of EVs is taking place today with the electrification of bus fleets. China led this transition by policy support to move a big proportion of the best fleets in various cities to electric, for example Shenzhen has moved its entire bus fleet to electric. Of around half a million electric buses running in cities globally, more than 95% operate in China. This has created a captive market and established Chinese OEMs as global leaders in the e-Bus market. By creating diesel competitive alternatives, these OEMs have made the transition easier for operators and authorities in many cities globally.
Singapore leads the revolution in Southeast Asia and piloted the first 60 electric buses earlier this year. In New Zealand, two bus depots supported by Siemens chargers would power more than 30 electric buses. Both Singapore and New Zealand are looking to move the entire bus fleet to zero emission by 2040.
A lot must be innovated to turn that vision into reality across Asia. While bus OEMs have started to adapt to this big shift, the next impact would be felt by operators and authorities who own and operate the depots. Bus depots of the future of this electrified fleet will look very different from the ones we see today. To understand this shift, here are four key topics:
Change in Stakeholders
Previously, simply put, if the authorities wanted to add a bus to a route, it would tender, and the bus operator would consider the costs for the bus, fuel, and labor. Now if the same must be planned for an electric bus, it adds many more stakeholders to the project, such as the utility, DSO/TSO, charger manufacturer, depot owner, battery manufacturer, software provider, etc. Also, the bus operator must think about charging locations, mileage, and battery life to run an optimized operation. This would require involving all the stakeholders from the very beginning to build a long-term plan for the city.
Many depots have limited spare capacity as they have not been designed for heavy load. With the benefit of fast DC charging comes the challenge of high peak power demand. This requires a grid upgrade to supply the extra power needed. Luckily, a smart charging software from Siemens can help balance the supply and demand intelligently to ensure maximum output within the grid limitations. Additionally, peak shaving, load-shifting and energy price optimizations make such software perfect for operators and help optimize costs.
Maneuvering between multiple options (Plug-in vs Opportunity charging)
Gas stations are replaced by plug-in charging in depots and opportunity charging on-route. Many factors contribute to building the right charging strategy depending on the bus battery size, charging rates, efficiency, kms on the route, topography of the route, number of stops and temperature. Singapore has implemented a combination of plug-in and opportunity charging, focusing on plug-in charging for depots for night refill and opportunity charging with pantographs at interchanges to be utilized during the day.
Future proof solutions and advance planning
Technology is moving at a tremendous speed, and it becomes paramount that operators and authorities are investing in technologies designed to cater to the evolving landscapes. Bus battery voltage is bound to go up and it would make sense to install infrastructure that is built to utilize that. Furthermore, to cater to the increased power requirements, the amount of real estate required for charging also needs to be considered. Setting up charging stations around bus route within the city could be challenging, and hence require planning for the long term.
The change in stakeholders and requirements of a depot create opportunities to bring new innovations and business models. Suitable planning is required to optimize the use of high-power charging infrastructure and high-performance battery systems of vehicles. Infrastructure that is smart and able to interoperate with different systems will be key to drive total cost of ownership down and lead to faster fleet conversions to electric. Overall, the move to electric transport in Asia Pacific is an exciting opportunity for all stakeholders to come together to drive sustainability.
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