Green Gothenburg


Green Gothenburg

This week Business Region Göteborg, which has the mission to create long term sustainable growth in the Gothenburg region, hosted a full day seminar dedicated to the electric hybrid bus technologies and services.

The focus of the day was primarily on the ElectriCity bus project that is run by a close partnership between Västtrafik, (public transport authority in Region Västra Götaland), Göteborg Energi (City of Gothenburg), Johanneberg Science Park (Chalmers), Lindholmen Science Park (Chalmers), Business Region Göteborg and the Volvo Group.

The electrification of buses is a qualifier for:
Silent, clean and potentially carbon emission free bus travel

Which in turn is an enabler for:

  • Indoor bus stops
  • Bus services close to residential areas sensitive to noise
  • Bus services in tunnels that need costly ventilation

and much much more…

I liked the inspiring ideas from the Science parks that look at new business opportunities in connection to making the public transports more attractive for the users. Ideas that provide answers to challenges such as indoor bus stops, connected services to the journey, personal travel advice (such as an accident on the route can generate a recommendation for a new route) or reservation of a bike in a bike pool close to the terminus.

Fredrik Persson

Fredrik Persson (Göteborg Energi) is demonstrating the electric charging station at Redbergsplatsen.

Ulrika Bokeberg at Västtrafik moderated the meeting and led the panel discussion that involved Nils-Olof Nylund (VTT Helsinki), Rolf Hagman (TOI, Oslo), Leif Magnusson (VGR, Göteborg), Kåre Albrechtsen (cph-electric, Copenhagen), Lotta Brändstrom (Göteborg Energi) and myself.

With the exception of Helsinki, it seems that most cities focus on promoting electrombility for cars instead of electrification of the bus fleet. This is somewhat hard to understand since most buses are used more than 10 hours per day while most cars are used less than two hours per day…


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175 billion dollars


The Transforming Transportation conference took place in Washington DC this month. The event is organized and hosted by Embarq, ITDP, The Worldbank, The World Resource Institute and a number of development banks. This was my first time attending this event.

I found it an exciting new challenge to learn a lot of acronyms and phrases all at once. I can tell you that MDG, for example, stands for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Another thing that I noticed was that the presentations in general contained very very large numbers… In fact, the numbers thrown around were so large that they need to be translated into a more down-to-earth way.

Below I have played around with the numbers to give you an understanding of the potential impact this amount of money could have on transportation:

175 Billion Dollars: Is the total number to be invested on sustainable transport over 10 years.

450 000 is the number of Volvo diesel-electric hybrid buses that can be purchased for 175 billion dollars.

1 600 000 is the number of Volvo diesel-electric hybrid buses that can be purchased for 175 billion dollars provided that just the additional cost for the hybridization is financed.

355 tons of CO2 is omitted from each hybrid bus.  If the new hybrid buses are used to replace diesel equivalents, Volvo hybrid technology will lower fuel consumption by 30% on average under real world conditions. An average bus runs 1 000 000 km during its life time. With the average diesel fuel consumption in city traffic being about 45 liters per 100 km, the total fuel consumption totals at  450 000 liters during the life time of the bus. A 30% saving equals 135 000 liters in fuel.

160 000 is the number of buses that can be introduced every year. This is roughly all new buses in the whole world (longer than 10 meters) for the next 10 years, globally.

135% return on capital is the outcome if we assume that we save $1.35 in lower cost for fuel for each dollar invested in diesel fuel. This effectively means that an investment in hybrid buses not only lowers the carbon dioxide emissions by 3.5 kg CO2 per dollar invested,  but the investor also  gets 135% interest return on capital over 12 years (the expected average life time of the bus).

The Volvo 7900 hybrid

The Volvo 7900 hybrid

 Now, if we assume that we use the money to purchase new hybrid buses to replace the need for new cars (rather than replacing old diesel buses) the full price for a modern hybrid bus is about $400 000 (varies a lot depending on market and specification).

Further, each bus has a global capacity average of 20 passengers (~20% filling factor) and each car that will be replaced carries on average 1.4 passengers (a global value, excluding drivers that are not travelling themselves, like taxi drivers). An average modern car emits 150 g/CO2 per kilometer on a yearly basis. This means that the hybrid bus lowers carbon dioxide by 66 gCO2/km.

If we would assume that the 175 billion dollars would be used to invest in additional 420 000 hybrid buses for increased capacity to replace cars, the CO2 saving per dollar turns out to be $0.31 per kg CO2. If the price for the corresponding cars is included in the calculation each bus generates a local profit of $2 per $1 invested in the hybrid buses, climate gains and fuel savings not regarded in this example. Let me estimate that the capital return over twelve years for society will be about $4 per $1 invested.

The rational for the high cost efficiency for investing in climate efficient hybrid bus technology is straightforward. A bus is utilized 12-18 hours per day generating tons of savings (355 to be precise).

Mind you, I’m just a chemical engineer by profession and the numbers above are generated by simple straightforward calculations without including index compensation. This exercise needs to be done properly by people that understand acronyms like IRR and NPV. Never-the-less, the margins are on a level that should be interesting for anyone, with or without targets, that has an objective of lowering emissions of greenhouse gases.

On Friday morning I took a taxi from the hotel to the venue at the Worldbank.

The driver asked me if I heard about the freezing temperatures and the snow they had last week.

He continued: “Do you know how cold it was?”

I responded : “I heard on the news; it was below -10 degrees F.”

The driver said: “No, it must have been even less, in fact it was so cold that the lawyers had to keep their hands in their own pockets.”

Global ambassador for road safety, Michelle Yeoh, closed the event

Global ambassador for road safety, Michelle Yeoh, closed the event.

The event was closed by celebrity global ambassador for road safety, the actress Michelle Yeoh.


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Buses are democratic


Investments in public transport help to relieve congestion.

I recently had the unique opportunity to meet with two ministers in India and dicuss different aspects of public transportation and buses in general.

Our lengthy dicussions produced many different insights into the topic. Here is what I discovered…

Politicians have the responsibility to act on behalf of all citizens. All citizens pay tax in one way or another, be it by Value Added Tax (VAT) on purchases or from a percentage of your salary. From a taxpayers perspective, the public use of money is a matter of realizing that value.

According to the first minister, “when we spend public money on roads for cars, the majority of the voters will not be able to receive a direct benefit from the investment”.

In India, most citizens don’t actually own cars, which means that benefits received from building highways for cars is limited. However, in many cities the congestion is severe and all travelers (on bikes, two wheelers, three wheelers, cars or buses) would benefit from less congestion.

According to the second minister, “visibility of the benefits received by society is essential for investments in infrastructure”.

If we build a high speed train between two major cities very few citizens will be able to afford the travel even if it would be heavily subsidized.”

Where we see a clear economic benefit but weak benefits for the citizens, there would be good opportunities for the private sector.”

I thought of this discussion after watching an excellent TED seminar by Enrico Peñalosa, “Why buses represent democracy in action”.

In short, the seminar discusses how public financing of cost efficient public transport is actually more democratic from a citizen’s perspective. It is interesting to find that there is a lot of similarities between both the reasoning of the Indian ministers and Mr. Peñalosa from Latin America.

A very different example of public transport is found in Jungfraubahn, in Switzerland. The railway was inaugurated in 1912 as a private investment, and has later been extended to include further rail and ski lifts in the valley.

Tourists pay 177 CHF per journey (a two way ticket). With a profit of 26 million CHF in 2012 (according to the home page), the investment has paid off. This is a good example of a railway that is not sponsored by taxpayers even when the amount of people using this mode of transport is relatively limited. Most of us can agree that Jungfraubahn does not require public subsidies.

I have been searching for an adequate measure to describe the degree of benefit citizens receive from investments in public transport, but have not come up with one so far. This is certainly a topic that would be of interest all over the world.

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Furniculaire top station

Funiculaire arriving at the top station

Last week, I got the opportunity to visit Switzerland. Switzerland is probably the country with the best public transport in the world. It is affordable and highly attractive at the same time. The high standards are achieved by a combination of systems, buses, trolley buses, trams, trains and different kinds of cable cars.

Entrance to the Funiculaire at the station in the valley

Entrance to the Funiculaire at the station in the valley

After having taken the train from the airport in Zurich (Kloten) to the Central station in Fribourg,  we went on one of the bus routes in the steep hills of the city. It is a really challenging area in the winter. So far all good. However, next we came to the “Funiculaire”. It is unique in many ways.

Petroleum lamp

Every detail is still maintained the petroleum lamp for example is still using petroleum kerosene to light up the cabin.

The propulsion is achieved by balancing the weight of the two cabins. Waste water is filled into a tank at the upper cabin. The additional weight is used to accelerate the trains both the one going up and the one going down. They are connected by a cable. The most unique thing about the Funiculaire in Fribourg is that it is still 100% in its original shape. Even if this might be considered to be more culture than public transports it a highly appreciated part of the public transport system.



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Volvo Sustainable Mobility Award in Bangalore


Last week I visited Bangalore for the third annual Volvo Sustainable Mobility Award ceremony. This year, we had more than 50 high quality contributions from research groups, non-governmental organizations, as well as, individuals. The jury included myself, Mr. Vinay Rao, Mrs. Geetam Tiwari and Mr. Medhav Pai.

With the high level of outstanding submissions we received, the decision to select the winner certainly wasn’t easy. Like last year, we came into the conclusion to award several projects due to their unique contributions to sustainable mobility. After three jury meetings, we agreed on two to share the winning place and one as the runner-up.

Volvo Sustainable Mobility Award

The shared winning place was awarded to:

Manica Aggarwall, Swati Jain,  Nittin Arora; Real time bus arrival information system

The project is aimed to provide users with real-time bus schedule and operation information to give people the opportunity to plan their journey. State-of-the-art algorithms have been implemented, such as,  estimated time of arrival and route finder. The service was launched both on the web and as an application found in the Google Play store for android mobile phone users. The system has received positive feedback from users.

Harman Singh Sidhu; ArriveSAFE; To reduce the number of road crashes due to drunk driving

The objective of the project is to reduce the number of road crashes due to drunk driving in the North Indian states of Punjab and Haryana. The outcome of the project directly or indirectly affects almost 20 million people. The project includes several targeted actions: i) removal of liquor shops along the National and State highways, ii) enforcement by the concerned agencies to undertake regular checks of drunk driving, iii) raising awareness among road users on road safety aspects, with particular focus on drunk driving. iv) ensuring resources from related agencies to carry out these campaigns and sustain the initiative.

The runner-up place was awarded to:

Navdeep Asia; EcoCabs: Dial-a-Rickshaw

This project has two related objectives. It aims to both promote cycle rickshaws as an affordable means of sustainable urban transport, especially for shorter distances, and focus on strengthening the existing unorganized network of cycle rickshaws. The project includes four main initiatives:  i) improving and increasing the accessibility of cycle rickshaws to citizens (mainly senior citizens and women), ii) providing a reliable low carbon mobility solution for short trips, iii) improving the livelihood opportunities and promoting the well-being of cycle rickshaw operators and iv) promoting the cycle rickshaw as a sustainable connection to any mass rapid transit system as opposed to cars as an alternative.

cycle rickshaw

Cycle rickshaw operator in Delhi

I was very impressed with the high level of the submissions, which made my jury service most rewarding. There is truly a lot to learn from the innovative solutions created in the rapidly developing transport sector of India. I was very proud to be a part of such an inspirational experience.

Read more about the event here.

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Electromobility: Why buses take the lead?

I frequently get asked the question:

Why are bus manufacturers tapping into the electromobility market, when much bigger industries, such as cars, have been waiting for a breakthrough for the past ten years?

Given the higher volumes of cars, surely there would a cost advantage compared to buses…

To that I respond:

  1. Buses run through urban areas, such as city centres and towns, where noise and emissions have the most critical impact on everyday life. Electromobility raises the attractiveness of buses as a transportation option and, therefore, their demand.
  2. Buses have the highest cost efficiency per passenger kilometer, with the exception of bikes. In the long term, this is expected to become the most important demand for transportation all over the world.
  3. Different to its competitors,  Volvo Buses has found and taken a path, which will step-by-step lower the cost even further.
  4.  The strength in our offer is the modular system (of hybrids, plug-in and electric buses) that will match the demand for different routes with a common infrastructure.
  5. Considering different duty cycles*, buses best match the demands for profitability of electromobility:

Daily Duty (hours)

Predicatable route

Charging opportunity
time between opportunities





Delivery trucks











*Let me just remark that of course there are lots of different types of duty cycles and usage within each category. This is an oversimplification that only servea as an example on how to think when comparing technologies.

In terms of total cost of ownership, the conventional diesel bus used to provide the lowest cost. Today, we can see a change in cost by the opportunities provided by electromobility: depending on what kind of operation the diesel bus is running in, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric buses will ultimately provide the lowest total cost of ownership during the lifetime of the vehicle.

Buses run in planned routes with foreseeable traffic conditions. The operating hours are long enough to enable favorable pay-back time for the initial investment. At the same time, however, buses are sensitive to disturbances and failure is not acceptable. The management of disturbances is a key success factor. Volvo provides a telematics solution that helps to manage any delays in traffic or conflicts at charging stations to optimise productivity and uptime.

The development of the new technology has been very rapid. What seemed impossible just a couple of years ago, has now developed into a complete commercial offer. Volvo Buses continues to develop the new technology in close cooperation with leading public transport providers all over the globe. Therefore, Volvo Buses and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg recently announced a common understanding on the establishment of Luxembourg as a test arena for new public transportation systems. Read more here.

The sustainable mobility sector has been identified as one of the most promising sectors in Luxembourg’s strategy for the diversification and “greening” of the economy. As a consequence, a long-term partnership between the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructures, operator Sales-Lentz and Volvo Buses has now been initiated.

Luxembourg has been in the forefront of the development of electromobility. Sales Lentz was one of the first operators using the new generation hybrid buses in Europe. Today, all public transport operators in Luxembourg utilize the new technology. As a result of the plans in Luxembourg, we can anticipate an emergence of electromobility services and competencies in the market.

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Busworld 2013

The Busworld exhibition in Kortrijk (Belgium) held its opening day last Friday the 18th of October. On Thursday, prior to the opening, Volvo Buses held a big press day during which our (now relatively new) CEO, Håkan Agnewell, presented our environmentally-friendly Euro VI product range.

 At the exhibition, Volvo showcased each application type ranging from city buses (7900 series) and regional buses (8900 series) to coaches (9000 series): all equipped with the new engine line.

City buses:

7900 double-deckers (10.5m and 12m) with the new hybrid drive train and a further refinement of the Euro V hybrid drive. The double-decker is also available with a D5 diesel engine, excluding hybridization.

Intercity buses:

The 8900 and 9500 models now equipped with the new D8 engine that is available with 280 to 350 hp.


The Euro VI coach models, the 9700 and 9900, are now available with the brand new D11 engine ranging from 380 hp to a remarkable 460 hp with 2200 Nm of torque.

7900 articulated hybrid bus

The 7900 articulated hybrid bus gained a lot of interest at Busworld in Kortrijk.

From everyone I have, so far, come across at the exhibition, the new 18-meter-long Volvo 7900 Articulated Hybrid gained most interest from journalists and operators. Since the introduction in 2010, Volvo hybrid technology has gained a solid reputation in the market globally and an articulated version has been anticipated ever since.

Volvo has always been a forerunner in new technologies and the new articulated 7900 hybrid bus is another step in the path towards electromobility. We have secured a fuel saving of 30% in slow city operation. The articulated 7900 hybrid will in absolute numbers save more fuel in liter per hour than the 12 meter version does.

However, the big buzz came on Friday when the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Sales Lenz and Volvo Bus announced an Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of Luxembourg as a test arena for a sustainable public transport system. You can read the full press release here.

I will soon come back with more detailed information about this subject in the blog…

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