2020-07-06

For electrical buses to be trustworthy means of transport, the charging must function well
For electrical buses to be trustworthy means of transport, the charging must function well

Text/illustration: Andreas R. Graven, NORCE. Translated from Norwegian by Torbjørn Barslett, Sagasystem

In the time to come, electrical buses will be a prioritized sector contributing to green change.

Not least in Vestland county, where 102 electrical buses will be put into operation in Bergen municipality in December 2020.

For Public Transport Operators (PTOs), it's operationally critical that buses are charged to proper capacity. But - the experience so far shows that charging sometimes is a bumpy road - and there is a lack of knowledge about which factors are affecting the charging.

This is something that Head of Research Anette Fagerhaug Stephansen and her colleagues at NORCE are addressing in a pre-study with the company Sagasystem, the provider of IT solutions to the KEOLIS vehicle fleet in Bergen, a major launch at Nordic scale.

– Predictability is extremely important

The pre-study aims at analyzing existing data from a handful of battery powered buses already in operation in Oslo, to uncover why buses in several cases haven't been charged according to intentions.

The aim is that the cooperation between Sagasystem and NORCE will lead to faster development and improvement of a decision making tool for battery powered bus fleets.

- Predictability is extremely important for an electrical bus initiative. Using diesel powered buses, you know how far you can drive, but using electrical buses, you sometimes see huge variations, and we intent to uncover contributing factors, such as hills, temperature etc., says Head of Research Stephansen.

The pre-study is supported financially by Vestland County.

A new era for public transport

Public transport is evolving rapidly, and electrification is a strategically important part of the ambition of an emission free society, hand in hand with high demands from the passengers, says Robert Eriksen Jacobsen, CEO of Sagasystem.

- By joining forces from NORCE and Sagasystem in this project, we are confident that we will be market leading on R&D in a brand new era for public transport. In turn, this will lead to great benefits for passengers, PTOs and public secror by contributing to an effective and green daily life, says Jacobsen.

Through this project, Sagasystem's competence on combustion powered public transport vehicles will be transformed to ensure sustainable growth in the market for electrical buses.

Using AI to predict correct driving distance

The further ambition for NORCE and Sagasystem is to apply the use of artifical intelligence (AI) in a bigger project monitoring bus operations and, using AI, more precisely predict how far one could drive.

- In a larger Innovation Project for Public Sector, the focus will partly be on simulating batteries, see how battery capacity is changing over time and after a lot of charging cycles.

- It will also concern the application of AI to improve the prediction of how far buses can go regardless of external conditions, so the PTOs can be in control. This is necessary because they are handling great values. During delays, there is a risk that people arrive late at work, which again implies a deficit for companies and the whole economy, says Stephansen.

She is also stating that it comes to securing trust in electric buses, where operational security and stability are keys to success, adding that in the longer run, a possibility window might open for a leap over to green rail and vessels, where there will be a need for more advanced planning solutions.

Read the article at the NORCE website (in Norwegian)