“Our vision is a city centre with only electric vehicles”
In the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, Lothian Buses transports 350,000 passengers a day. Many of them come from nearby towns and villages around the city and travel to the centre to work, while others want transport to the airport outside Edinburgh. Lothian Buses is one of the largest bus transport companies in the UK, with a total of 700 buses in its fleet, 595 of which carry the Volvo brand name.
Edinburgh is famous, among other things, for its beautiful architecture and its well-preserved buildings from the Middle Ages. Some parts of the city are listed among UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
“We have so much that needs preserving here. This is a wonderful city,” says Bill Devlin, engineering director at Lothian Buses.
Volvo Buses recently delivered 10 hybrid buses to Edinburgh and more are in the pipeline.
“We have had an excellent partnership with Volvo Buses since 1999. Volvo Buses offers us the complete package, with high-quality vehicles and new technology. At the same time, it has a well-developed service network,” explains Bill Devlin.
Lothian Buses has made large-scale investments during the past few years and modernised its bus fleet. The inhabitants of Edinburgh like travelling by bus – especially now that there are hybrid buses on the streets.
“It gave us a great deal of pleasure to note an increase in passenger numbers of around 15 to 20 per cent when we introduced the hybrid buses,” says Bill Devlin.
However, Lothian Buses is now looking to go one step further by starting to use electric buses.
“It’s our vision to have a city centre with nothing but electric vehicles in the future. It’s necessary for the city and its inhabitants,” adds Bill Devlin.
Some time ago, he and his colleagues visited Gothenburg and travelled on one of Volvo Buses’ plug-in hybrids. These buses are participating in an EU project that will run until September. In a hybrid bus, the batteries are charged when the bus brakes. The electric motor only runs for short periods, at a bus stop, for example. In plug-in hybrid, the charge comes from the mains network and the diesel engine acts as back-up rather than the other way round. The plug-in hybrid also requires an infrastructure with special charging stations.
As Bill Devlin and his colleagues travelled along the streets of Gothenburg, speaking to drivers and studying the charging station, they discussed how they could introduce something similar in Edinburgh.
However, in order to invest fully and realise this aim, it was also necessary to convince politicians and civil servants in Edinburgh. As a result, representatives from Volvo Buses’ City Mobility Team are going to travel to the Scottish capital to meet the city’s rulers, together with Lothian Buses.
“We need help to describe the benefits of electricity and how the logistics, including charging stations and bus stops, are organised,” explains Bill Devlin.
This is precisely the way the City Mobility Team is expected to work.
It is designed to act as a resource in contact with authorities and traffic managers and, instead of selling a vehicle, the plan is to sell a complete system.
“This is not really anything new. Volvo Buses has been working in this way for quite some time. However, we have now systematised everything,” says Jessica Sandström, head of the Volvo Buses City Mobility Team, and she goes on to explain the importance of being able to influence and reach decision-makers.
“They are ultimately responsible for the way public transport is organised and how it is developed,” she says.
Some members of the team recently had a meeting similar to the one planned in Edinburgh in Montreal in Canada.
“We gathered all the stakeholders for a joint presentation. This was the first time they had been in the same room together. So, while we had an opportunity to tell them about our concept, they also had the chance to discuss things with one another. Dialogue and consensus are incredibly important and this is an area in which we can make a difference,” she says.