Mexico City

On Wednesday the 20th of January Mexico City signed a memorandum of understanding with Volvo. The partners will cooperate to share information with the objective to realize environmentally sane public transports.

Mexico City has 9 million inhabitants and the region/urban area has 21 million inhabitants.
Like all megacities Mexico City has several urgent transport challenges:
-The car ridership is gradually increasing and the traffic is becoming increasingly congested.
-A large number of old micro and midi buses have negative impact on the air quality.
-Heavy transports contribute to road wear, noise and vibrations.
-Growth of the population  increase the demand for transport capacity and insufficient number of efficient alternatives give long transport times and high costs for citizens. This cost is both reflected in higher prices for the transports and in less time with friends and family.
-High interest rates and long lead times delay the required infra-structure investments.
-The synthesis of all the challenges give raise to a negative helix where energy use and emissions of greenhouse gases are increasing and not decreasing, as the urbanization should have potential for.

I have been involved in analyzing the potential of implementing clean and energy efficient bus systems. As in most of the cities where Volvo is involved in implementing the new technology (e.g. Hamburg) the new energy efficient bus systems can address all challenges for the person transports simultaneously. In congested traffic cars are mostly the main contributors to the congestion and buses can mostly provide efficient alternatives for many of the car users. The beauty of the new hybrid and electric bus systems is that they can meet all the environmental challenges by utilizing the existing road infrastructure. When given exclusivity the buses are getting faster and the car users are attracted to the public transports. The modern design and silent drive ads further to the attractiveness. With marginal additional investments in road infrastructure for fly-over congested crossing or dive-under waterways the new bus systems can raise the capacity with further advantage in environmental performance.

Volvo Mexico City MoU signature

The Memorandum of Understanding between Volvo Bus and Mexico City was signed by Rufino Leon Továr (Minister of Transports) for Mexico City and by Håkan Agnevall (Chief Executive Officer Volvo Bus) for Volvo Bus and it was witnessed by Tanya Muller (Mexico City Minister of Environment), Guillermo Calderon (Director Metrobus), Rafael Kiesel (Volvo, Ralph Acs (General Manager Volvo Bus Americas), Ileana Almazan (Director RTP), Jörgen Persson (Ambassador of Sweden in Mexico).


7900 Articulated Hybrid and my Self at the Plaza de la Constitution in Mexico City.

7900 Articulated Hybrid and my self at the Plaza de la Constitution in Mexico City.


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Hamburg inauguration Line 109

Last week the Innovation Line 109 was inaugurated in Hamburg. Volvo 7900 Electric Hybrid / Plug-in was in pole position (see video).

The event was hosted by Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz who is strongly driving the implementation of sustainable Public Transports in Hamburg.

Volvo Bus
Günther Elste (Chairman Hamburg Hochbahn), Olaf Sholz (Mayor Hamburg),  Olof Persson (President/CEO Volvo Group), Håkan Agnevall (Volvo Bus CEO) and Håkan Karlsson (EVP Volvo Group Busines Areas)


Volvo Bus

Håkan Agnevall (Volvo Bus CEO), Peter Schrauwen (Volvo Bus Hamburg Project Lead)  Håkan Karlsson (EVP Volvo Group Busines Areas) , Olof Persson (President/CEO Volvo Group), Tommy Hjelle (Volvo Electric/Hybrid Drive Specialist), Mats Franzen (Project Leader Electromobility visible in the back)

The city of Hamburg has established the target: from 2020, only emission-free buses should be acquired by the city. Volvo is determined to offer buses that meets the requirements of Hamburg.

I claim that the 7900 Electric Hybrid bus is the most versatile bus on the market Electric for emission free drive and hybrid where work-horse performance is required.

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On fuel price and tender requirements

In 1987 the Brundtland commission presented its report on defining sustainability.

The conclusions were summarized like this:
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Energy use often have a high impact in life cycle analysis of transports. In particular public transports, that frequently have very high utilization, rely heavily on the choice of energy. So from a plain environmental standpoint the choice would be easy. Low energy use should have very high priority in the design of public transport systems.

However, for many, energy price is equally important. I have studied a large number of bus tenders all around the world and found that surprisingly low emphasis is put on the fuel consumption.

I have divided the principles into four groups:
1: No requirement is put on fuel consumption of the bus and the cost for fuel is subsidized or fuel expenses refunded using an index
2: No requirement is put on fuel consumption of the bus, but the bus operator covers the cost for the fuel
3: The tender has a minimum requirement for fuel consumption to be met
4: Fuel consumption is a competitive part of the tender
I have found no case where the full life cycle cost of the fuel consumption is at stake.

If the true cost for fuel is to be considered the future price would be an important part.
So what would the expected price development for fuel be?

For the study below I have used data from the US Federal Reserve Div. Economic Data.

First we can conclude that the consumer price index historically has not varied much year by year. There has been a constant linear increase year by year. Today the consumer price index increase by ~3% with a linear increase. Even if fuel is a part of the price index it is not “heavy” enough to fully capture the pace of change.

fuel price 1

For fuel it is a completely different story. Historically and fundamentally there have been two major trends: before and after the oil crisis in the 1970s. After the oil crisis the fuel price was very unstable and easily impacted by international crisis development. The risk for a disturbance of the transports in the Hormuz Straits has led to increased prices. Even if the price increase has been mainly instable a fit with an exponential increase seems not too wrong.

If we study the last 14 years the trend is similar but a bit more accentuated.

fuel price2

We can hence conclude that the fuel price index has historically increased by 8% annually.

Consumer Price Index and Fuel Price Index Change from January 2000 to September 2014:

Consumer price index increase yearly linear by 2.5%
Fuel price index has an exponential increase yearly by 8%

How does this help in calculating the Life Cycle Cost for a bus?
If the life time of the bus is 12 years the first tank will start at the index of 100 and after one year the cost will be 108. After 12 years the cost will be 152% higher than today.The average fuel tank during the life time of the bus will cost 65% more than the price today.

Based on the observation that the fuel price has increased by 8% per year since year 2000:

During the full life time of the bus purchased in year 2000 the average fuel tank cost 65% more than the first tank.

Forecasting is always a matter of guessing. In particular instable data, such as the fuel price, is hard. Guessing the future based on the past is mostly better than doing nothing. The best we can do today is use the most precise information we have.
For this study I used US data from the Federal Reserve. For any other part of the world local data may change the picture.

I therefore conclude that: Any city or operator that is concerned about their future cost of fuel the future fuel price should be taken into the equation already when the bus is purchased. It will actually make a hugh difference in technology choice in the favour of lower energy use.

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Volvo Sustainable Mobility Award 2014

The Volvo Sustainable Mobility Award was has already come to its fourth year. The award ceremony was, as all years so far, held in Bangalore India. I had once more the honor to be a member of the jury.
Participation in the award has become a loved tradition among researchers, institutes and many different types of organizations that work for sustainable mobility. The spirit of the award is truly wide and contributions deal with all sorts of sustainability micro level material science to mobility planning from a global perspective.

The award shall encourage and both theoretical progress as well as practical implementation. This years award winner dealt with a wide range of aspects of sustainability: from methodology development, sensitiving government officials, communication to citizens and awareness sharing with media, implementation and follow-up.

The award winners limit their claims to promotion of biking and walking by a new road network. But, I would be prepared to go even further. The rigorous and detailed planning; meter-by-meter has not only enabled safe travel for cyclists (pedal bikes) and walkers. It has improved the safety also for two wheelers (motorcycles) three wheelers and cars as well.

The Centre for Green Mobility Ahmedabad was presented with the Volvo Sustainable Mobility Award in 2014. The team: Mr. Anuj Malhotra, Ms. Arunika Karmakar, Ms. Ruchita Shah, Mr. Prerit Kaji and Mr. Akshan Bhide have taken an idea all the way from the drawing board to the roads of Diu. The on their journey they have step-by-step done what was required to gain trust support and approval from citizens, press and governmental bodies in order to realize a successful implementation. I personally appreciated the wide range of “elements” that were used to achieve exactly the right property at every crossing and every part of the road. It is very far from a one-size-fits-all solution. On the contrary, in some parts the beautiful view of the beach and the sea becomes important to attract the cyclists, in another part the safety for pedestrians to cross the road is in focus. Every part of the road has its own characteristics and needs.

I want to whish the team and the Centre for Green Mobility all success in the continued implementation of the plans for Diu. And, I hope and trust that more parts of Ahmedabad and other cities can learn that benefit from the progress in Diu. This is certainly a project that we all can learn a lot from.

India sustainable mobility award

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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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