Volvo's quiet revolution in city buses

Volvo's quiet revolution in city buses Volvo demonstrates indoor bus operation with its new Line 55 electric buses.

Volvo is heralding a new city transport revolution with its ElectriCity project in Gothenburg which demonstrates the ability of almost silent, emission-free buses to operate indoors as well as outside. A new 10km route, Line 55, has been developed between Chalmers University and Lindholmen, served by three full-electric Volvo 7900 buses and seven electric hybrid 7900s, all using opportunity charging systems at either end of the route.

The project involves a total of 14 partners, led by Volvo which has alone invested around €20million in developing the buses and in contributing a third towards the costs of operating the vehicles. The partners have committed to creating an open technology solution for the charging infrastructure to demonstrate to cities that the charging systems can be used by other manufacturer’s electric buses in the future.

The launch of the new route co-incided with the homecoming of the nine-month Volvo Ocean Race to Gothenburg and Volvo used the week-long event to create a special temporary library building, into which the Line 55 buses operate to demonstrate the ability of electric-powered buses to operate indoors.

“Indoor bus stops mean that you can take the bus to where the passenger is, rather than take the passenger to the bus,” says Jessica Sandström, senior vice president City Mobility at Volvo Buses.

The indoor stop at Lindholmen, which is a permanent feature, demonstrates some of the ways in which the bus stop can become a multi-use facility and includes a cafe and a new DHL hub for passengers to collect packages for goods they have ordered online.

The electric version of the 7900 is still a concept bus and has been built to 10.8m length with a central driving position and double-width passenger doors in the middle. The front axle has also been moved to accommodate more passengers with a capacity of 86, the same as the electric hybrid version which is a 12m bus.

Volvo is aiming to offer the electric buses on a pence per kilometre basis to operators to address any concerns about battery life and performance, with the manufacturer absorbing the full technical risk of the batteries.

The full-electric 7900 has four 19kWh batteries which can be re-charged in around six minutes at the charging stations. Although the electric buses are designed to be charged at either end of the route, they have enough capacity to miss one charge if required with up to a 20km range. The electric hybrids, which include telematics to enable full remote monitoring, operate on electric power on parts of the route controlled by a geo-fencing system. 

A slow overnight charge is also used to ensure that the battery cells remain well balanced and a new technical centre and maintenance facility has been established in Gothenburg by Volvo to look after the 10-vehicle fleet for Line 55 on behalf of the route’s operator Keolis.

Edinburgh is due to be the first UK city to have a large-scale electric hybrid bus operation with plans for 24 Volvo 7900s on Lothian Buses' route 30.