Electric Hybrid Launch

In year 1800 Volta discovered the electrochemical cell, the battery. During the first 200 years of battery development many small steps were taken but it was not until recently that Lithium was curbed into a useful combination of metal, ion and electrolyte that allowed a sustainable rechargeable battery.

The energy electrochemical potential is almost 3 volts and the Lithium element is the lightest metal with a mass of 7 grams per mole. This makes Lithium particularly suitable as battery for vehicles.

In 2009 Volvo launched the 7700 Hybrid Bus. It was probably the first vehicle in serial production using the new battery technology. It has become a big success.


The Volvo Hybrid bus range now come in several versions:

7900 Euro VI Hybrid

7900 Euro VI Articulated Hybrid

B5LH (chassis for double decker’s)

B5RLEH (or Euro V Global Hybrid) for international markets

The Hybrid Buses offers superior cost efficiency over the life time in combination with outstanding environmental performance.

The 31st of December 2013 Volvo became the first Bus manufacturer to make hybrid buses the base line for European low floor city buses. This means that the hybrid drive is no longer optional.

Once the hybrid drive is on-board, for buses in city operation it makes sense to charge from the electric grid when you get the opportunity (so called opportunity charging).

In October at IAA, Volvo launched the Volvo 7900 Electric Hybrid. We are immensely proud to once more be first out with a completely new and ground breaking technology. It combines the best of two worlds “it is an electric bus where noise free and clean drive is required and a hybrid bus where performance is demanded”.


The new bus is delivered in a package containing much more than “just” a bus. We already have assignments from a number of cities to deliver complete systems. We are certain that this once more will become a sucess and we are prepared to share a risk. We therefore offer solutions that makes it easy for the users to realize the implementation.

A typical delivery contains:

~20 Electric Hybrid Buses for one or two city bus routes (by availability or rent per km)

~4-6 opportunity charging stations for terminals

20 low power connections to the electric grid for the depot

Service and support for workshop, parts, battery, fleet and vehicle management systems

Zone management for zero emissions or safety

Project support or lead for implementation

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Energy is both global and local


In his recent State of the Union address, US President, Barack Obama, concludes that the safe extraction of oil and gas has enabled the US to be closer to energy independence than they have been in decades. In particular, access to low cost natural gas is described as a positive contribution to the energy independence needed for transportation.

In Germany, the Energy Transition organization driving green visions and projects, Energiewende, has brought a lot of focus on the phase-out of nuclear power and the phase-in of sustainable power. The rational has six aspects:

  1. Fighting climate change
  2. Reducing energy imports
  3. Stimulating technology innovations and the green economy
  4. Reducing and eliminating the risk of nuclear power
  5. Energy security
  6. Strengthening local economies and providing social justice

Most countries have national targets that are similar, such as, Australia, Canada, India, China, Brazil, and Turkey just to mention a few. As a result of population growth in megacities around the world and the increasing need of public transportation, more emphasis is put on energy independence (like the USA) and Energy Security (like Germany).


The national energy policy is important for public transportation. The cost of fuel is between 15% and 50% of the life cycle cost for most public transportation systems around the world with privatization of operators becoming very common.

This is nothing new. In my home town, in Gothenburg, the trams were horse powered until 1902 (after an incredible project time of less than two years), when the first electric tram started operating. This was a political decision directly related to jobs, food and energy security. Fortunately, most trams around the world have been electric ever since.



This is, however, not the same case for buses and coaches. Trials have constantly been ongoing with different and, more or less, secure fuels, such as, liquefied petroleum gas, bio ethanol, bio methanol, biogas, liquidized biogas, di-methyl-ether, rapeseed methyl ester, hydrogenated vegetable oils, algae oil, hydrogen and electricity.

In a typical pioneering proposal, strong stakeholders, such as, energy companies, the agricultural industry, the automotive industry, construction companies, prepare a convincing case for government decision making. By industrial “seed money” and a “someone-else-pays” set-up, the new fuel is enforced on the local bus fleet. Often public money is indirectly provided for trials, as well as, for industrialization. In the end, the ticket price and tax subsidies for public transportation have to pay the bill. The result is less public transportation, doubtful environmental results and unreliable service.

Imagine if a federal political decision would be taken to make all trams run on, for example, sunflower oil? Be it in Europe, India, China or US. How would the city mayors and councils react? I would personally find it unacceptable if federal or national authorities would interfere with the trams in my home town. Electric drive certainly remains the best solution for trams and this decision should be taken locally.

Buses in cities all over the world are becoming more efficient by hybridization and electrification, similar to what trams have been for the last 100 years. Being more efficient means using less energy. This is not always rewarded when growth targets are set for all sectors, including energy production. Hence, in many places powerful interest groups of different kinds attract the interests of old school political stakeholders. The development of energy efficient buses has really taken off in the last few years, but the new base-line is not yet in the awareness of the general public.

On the 31st of December 2013, Volvo Buses made the hybrid bus a standard offer in Europe. Plain diesel and gas buses are no longer available.

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Towards cleaner cities

Volvo Hybrid in London

Volvo Hybrid in London

I would say that London was the first city with a constructive plan for emission abatement. The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, issued a call for green transportation already in 2006 in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. The first objective was to realize clean and energy efficient hybrid buses for London. Since then, Volvo has supplied more than 500 hybrid buses to the UK. No doubt the initiative by the Mayor of London has made a big difference.

Today, a large number of cities around the world have relatively precise plans for the future. A lot of focus is put on buses that have the ability to simultaneously impact both local emissions and transport capacity. Many cities compete in becoming the first adopter of sustainable transport technologies. In general, there are two time lines:

i) one group of cities have the intention to purchase only emission free (mainly electric) buses from 2020

ii) the other group is set to convert their full bus fleet by 2025

From my perspective both time lines are realistic and efficient.

If I generalize there are three categorize of initiatives:

1) Political initiatives pushing for a change (e.g. Ken Livingstone in London)
2) Private enterprises (e.g. Sales Lenz in Luxemburg introducing new environmental technology in order to strengthen their role in the future transport system) 
3) Citizens’ demands towards improved environment, in particular with respect to air quality and noise (e.g. Sjöstadsföreningen in Stockholm  )

In the last example, the citizen group Sjöstadsföreningen (try to pronounce that if you can) has identified a number of environmental issues to deal with in order to improve the quality of living in the neighborhood: energy use, waste management, air quality, noise.

The activists push both the industry and politicians to realize a change. An initiative has been taken to renew the bus fleet in the city from today’s gas buses to the new generation of buses that is driven by electro mobility. In the end, it is all about quality of life.

Volvo Buses is proud to be able to contribute with a new generation of Hybrid and Electric Hybrid (plug-in) buses that will be able meet the demands of progressive mayors, bus operators and citizens.

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Modern cities




Especially with growing population, many cities around the world have concerns about air quality and noise. Legislation for emissions has gradually grown stricter for cars, buses and trucks alike.

Buses naturally face tougher challenges and demands as they drive through residential areas, close to people and homes.

Volvo made the bold choice to only offer hybrid buses for city traffic in Europe. Not one single low-floor buses (except one double-decker version for UK) are delivered without a hybrid drive. The hybrid bus can start from the bus-stop in electric mode, which makes it more silent than the diesel version.

Hamburg is a city with one of the most visionary public transport plans in Europe. HOCHBAHN is the main operator in the city and has been leading the development in realizing the vision of Mayor Olaf Scholz and HOCHBAHN Chairman Günter Elste. HOCHBAHN has started to realize this vision by investing in Volvo Hybrid buses, but this is just the beginning. From 2020, Hamburg will only buy emission-free buses.

Recently, Hamburg has taken yet another step t when HOCHBAHN ordered three Electric Hybrid buses from Volvo. The Electric Hybrid buses use high power opportunity charging from the electric grid to enable the buses to run mainly in silent and emission free electric mode. The new buses will be taken into traffic by the end of this year.

Read more…

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Visiting the Album conference

Dark clouds

One Monday back, some dramatic clouds appeared over our offices at Arendal in Gothenburg. Unfortunately, I am not keen on extreme weather patterns and I had to catch a flight to Edinburgh that afternoon. As the song title from 1944 goes, we were “Coming in on a wing and a prayer” as we made through the turbulent skies arriving safely in Ediburgh. 

Airlink 100 Ediburgh

In contrary to most airports today, that have commuter rail and taxi services on offer, Edinburgh offers air travelers a large selection of buses going to several directions. The Airlink 100 proved most convenient for me as I was heading to the city centre. 


I’m used to jogging with my dog in the mornings, so I woke up early to have a short run around the well-known castle and old town of Ediburgh. It was a beautiful morning with clear blue skies.

New tram in Ediburgh

I encountered an unusual sight, the new tram. The new catenaries are seen along Princess street, one of the main streets. The new tram was out for test runs and still empty, excluding a few technicians conducting some work.

Traffic bottleneck in Ediburgh

Here, the buses are waiting for their turn to come into a traffic bottleneck in the center of the city.

Volvo hybrid bus

The Volvo Hybrid bus arrives in front of the Sir Walter Scott monument, sorry for blocking the sight…

bus advertising

In many cities where public transportation has less competition, you will find adverts, for instance, for shampoo at the rear of the bus. In the UK, advertising space is reserved to promote the bus companies themselves.

Volvo Bus promotion

We also came to the same conclusion for the Album conference and bus exhibiton, at the Murrayfield rugby stadium.

Gavin Hastings

Rugby legend, Gavin Hastings, gave probably the most engaging presentation at the conference, speaking about leadership and good examples.

 Arthur's seat

Next morning, I went on another jog and passed the Arthurs Seat

Green hills

… and, the beautiful flowers covering the hills.


Volvo Truck & Bus North and Scotland has put in place a new “Volvo Frontline support” service lead by Mark Gillfeather. In the new set-up, the service team is independent in the sense that each one decides on their own about diagnostics, advice, actions and billing. They have excellent coverage over the area from Teesside to Inverness.

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New infrastructure approaches to BRT



Introducing Jorge Suarez

Today our city mobility colleague Jorge Suarez presents a “guest blog” on the subject of new approaches to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) infrastructure. Jorge recently moved to Sweden to join the City Mobility team. He has been responsible for implementation of BRT solutions in Latin America. Below he shares some of his experiences to present a fusion with Electromobility ambitions of cities.

– Edward Jobson

New infrastructure approaches to BRT

By Jorge Suarez

Jorge Suarez

Recently, I did a business trip to Bogotá along with other City Mobility colleagues. I was happy to see the new Transmilenio feeder going into the airport, and the trunk line taking you to the city center through Avenida 26 in 20 minutes. I left my native Colombia some 10 years ago and Transmilenio, certainly a strong influence on my career in transportation, continues to impress me. Transmilenio is such a well thought-through solution: its concept combines bi-articulated buses, dedicated stations, multiple stop points (key to high-capacity), real-time passenger information and, more recently, wi-fi at stations. A distinguishing feature of Transmilenio is the intergration of public space and bike use.

In this same visit, I was lucky to use a new service running through iconic Avenida 7 in its opening week, using the first Volvo hybrid buses in Bogotá. Bogotá aims to improve its fleet technology and this is the first step towards electrified public transportation. I was impressed at the underground Transmilenio stop in front of the National museum. I am more and more certain that cities will have to invent new creative ways to use scarce urban space to build infrastructure. Electromobility opens the door for innovative use of urban space as electric buses enable zero-emission, low-noise zones and the use of indoor bus-stops.

BRT Transmilenio

Transmilenio station on Avenida 26 with bike underpass


Public investment should not be the only solution for infrastructure. When you have 50,000 people coming into a terminal, such passenger flow becomes an important market opportunity. People tend to need to buy things or run errands during their journey so this opens up the possibility for retailers to install themselves in the terminals. Transport operators can invest in commercial space and have a share of the rents to improve their business profile as a whole. The city can, in return, ask for urban space improvements. The other opportunity is the integration of housing and office buildings with bus terminals, so-called Transit-oriented development. For Volvo, this ultimately means that we as manufacturers should think outside the box about how buses insert themselves in urban landscape. We are, thus, able to advise cities and customers on infrastructure design so it is compatible with bus operations.

Underground stations

Underground stations

Images: MSN News; El Espectador.

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Prioritizing bus paths

Shanghai night sky

Shanghai night sky

Last week my city mobility colleague, Magnus Broback, made a presentation at a seminar about public transportation in Shanghai and we took the opportunity to visit some of our contacts while visiting. As an old city that is still growing, Shanghai struggles to find a balance between efficient public transportation and city planning.

The old part of the city is especially crowded with all types of vehicles running in the streets. The traffic moves slowly and becomes disorderly in the crossings. However, in some areas main corridors have been defined, which makes the pace quicker with traffic lights controlling the flow. In these sections buses are prioritized and often given the priority of way in separate lanes.

Volvo/Sunwin bus

One of the thousands of Volvo/Sunwin buses in Shanghai

On small roads close to the city center, buses have little priority and frequently get stuck between cars. This leads to low speed leads and fewer passengers, which, in turn, results to lower priority given to the buses.

How can a city find methods to prioritize the street space for the benefit of the society?

If we compare three cars to one 12m bus, they actually occupy about the same space on the road, 35 sqm. Cars carry on average 6 people and the bus carries 30 people. This is not only a question about congestion: the time lost in traffic per person should be valued equally.

How can society find simple principles to compare the right to priority for different road users?

Value of time for travel: in literature we can find different standards for defining the value of travel time. For travel to work, I find it is logical to use the GDP per capita per working hour as a base. This gives us a measure that can be locally adapted for each city, but still easy to understand and use.

In the table below I compare the hourly cost for the number of persons occupying 35 square meters of street space.

Table: Value of travel time

All costs in $ GDP 2013 Work hours Three Cars

6 persons*

One Bus

30 persons*

  US$ per year Cost per hour Cost per hour
Brazil 12118 1766 41 206
Canada 43146 1710 151 757
China 9828 1850 32 159
Germany 39468 1397 170 848
India 3991 1841 13 65
USA 52839 1700 186 932

*global rough average

The assumption is that the hourly cost is defined by GDP per working hour in each country. The consequence is that the value of a street occupied by frequent bus traffic is about five times higher than the value for a street of cars, assuming that the capacity difference is used fully. I see a counter in front of me where the cost is ticking constantly.

Now, the interesting question arises…

If a car user wants to get prioritized what is a reasonable price for the street space from the perspective of the society?

I would reason that the difference in time-value is one important factor. The car users need to buy the time from alternative use and, at the same time, transportation capacity needs to be taken into account. 

The value of time is frequently used to compare priority of new investments. The question is whether this line of thought can be used to prioritize road space for different means of transportation and for different times of the day.

Is the value of time for different means of transportation a number that is useful for making educated decisions on using prioritized lanes and planning infrastructure?

On Wednesday evening, my travel companion for this journey, Magnus Broback, and I decided to have dinner in the city. The bus stop outside the lobby of the hotel was crowded with two buses running different routes, clearly marked by Arabic numbers 184 and 642.

Most people walked to the bus stop from the surrounding residential areas, while others came by bike. Seemingly a constant flow of passengers embarked the buses. At this time of the day, nobody seemed to exit the bus at our stop.

When passing the metro station earlier the same day, we saw a bus terminus with lots of routes delivering travelers to the subway. We assumed that at least one of the buses would take us the 3548 meters (the accuracy delivered by my nerdy habit of logging travels by GPS) to the nearest metro station. However, all the signs at the bus stop were in Mandarin, which neither of us can speak or read. We decided to ask the concierge for help.

The following conversation took place at the desk in the lobby of the hotel:

Me: Which bus can take us to the metro station?

The receptionist: You want to go to the metro station? Where are you heading?

Magnus: We are going to the city center.

The receptionist: I will call you a taxi.

Me: But, we want to take the bus and the subway.

The receptionist: The taxi can take you to the metro station.

Magnus: Is it bus route 184 or 642 that stops at the Technology and Science Museum station?

The receptionist: No you cannot take the bus.

Me: Why?

The receptionist: You will get lost.

We left the hotel without further discussion. It was getting dark, so we decided to take a risk. We decided to jump on the first bus that arrived, bus 184. It was most user-friendly. A lady, with a small red flag that she stuck out of the window to show her location, was selling tickets on-board the bus.

The price was 1 Yuan each, which was very cheap. As the bus was getting more crowded, the lady moved around to check the tickets, including the digital tickets found on smart phones, which were used by most. During our last leg, the bus was getting too crowded for moving around and we helped by passing money and tickets between new travelers entering the bus and the lady with the red flag. We followed the bus path street-by-street and found that it took us to the station after 4 stops along the way.

The moral of this story has many implications. Buses in general are perceived as complicated. The large number of routes makes few people aware of which route is heading for which terminus. There is a feeling that the bus may escape the route and not head for the right stop. We people in the bus business have a lot of work to do to make the systems more transparent.




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