The first two Finnish Linkker electric buses, owned by Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) and manufactured based on a prototype developed by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, will start to operate in the metropolitan area.
HSL will purchase a total of 12 buses from Linkker Oy, of which the first few will be put into service in Espoo. Next year, Finnish buses will also serve on bus routes in Helsinki.
"For this case we will make an exception and buy the buses ourselves, because it would be unreasonable to make a traffic company shoulder the risks of the new technology," says Reijo Mäkinen, Director of HSL's Transport Services Department. "This arrangement also enables HSL to test and develop new passenger services on their own buses and to try out various installations."
HSL's goal is to greatly increase the number of electric buses. In 2020, electric buses should account for 10 per cent of vehicles serving on bus services procured by HSL, increasing to as much as 30 per cent by 2025. HSL has committed to implementing measures for sustainable development until 2050 with the aim of achieving a carbon neutral society. Electric buses support HSL's strategic goal to increase the share of low-emission transport within public transport.
Charging the battery at the end of the line
Linkker is the first Finnish automatically fast-charging electric bus. Batteries can be charged at at the end of the line using a fast-charging device while passengers board the bus, whereas electric buses have so far only been charged at depots. The batteries only need about 1.5–3 minutes to charge up for the next round.
As the batteries of the fast-charging buses are smaller in size than those loaded at depots, the buses are lighter and thus their weight does not limit passenger capacity. A significant amount of energy is saved compared to a diesel bus, as the energy consumption of traditional diesel buses is over 3 kWh per kilometre, whereas a Linkker bus only uses some 1.0 kWh per kilometre.
Linkker also is energy efficient due to the fact that the buses have a full-aluminium body so they are light compared to buses made from steel.
The commissioning of the Linkker buses are part of the ePELI project, which started a year ago as a spin-off of the eBUS project in the ECV network coordinated by VTT and supported by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes). In addition to HSL, the projects involve the city of Espoo and Transdev Finland Oy, which operates route 11. HSL and its cooperation partners test the fast-charging system and the use of the pilot electric buses in urban traffic on route 11.
Transdev Finland Oy has participated in the eBUS project from the onset as an active developer. During the past three years, the company has brought a total of seven electric buses to be tested in Finland. They have used the buses in passenger traffic primarily in the internal route 11 in Espoo.
VTT has been involved in the implementation of electric buses and system development right from the start. VTT acts as a partner to cities and service contractors in the planning of the electric bus system. VTT equips the Linkker buses with data collection devices and monitors battery charge levels with the help of a real-time monitoring and control system.
"The technology of VTT's prototype bus has been used as a firm basis for Linkker's first buses. The prototype will continue to be used as an open research and development platform, which is now being updated with new batteries and charging equipment so that it can be fast-charged automatically at a bus terminal, a final stop or at a site along the route similarly to HSL's Linkker buses. One key objective of the pilot programme with HSL is to ensure the overall productivity of the electric bus. We carefully analysed the performance capability and reliability of the electric bus system," says Research Team Leader Mikko Pihlatie.
Espoo has financed the charging device and provided five million euros for the development of electric bus services. Once the metro starts carrying passengers from Espoo to Helsinki in August 2016, most of the bus routes in southern Espoo will be turned into feeder services to metro stations.
"The city's goal is that, in future, as many of the feeder services as possible will be operated with electric buses," says Pasi Laitala, Director for Sustainable Development, City of Espoo.
The fast-charging point which has been installed at the final stop of route 11 will be operated by Fortum. Currently, Fortum's Charge & Drive charging network consists of more than 500 charging points in the Nordic countries, of which more than 200 are fast-charging points. "There will be more and more electric vehicles in public transport, and we want to be actively involved in this development," says Jukka Toivonen, Head of Business Development at Fortum.
Electric buses are a step towards zero-emission public transport because the energy they use can be produced, for example, by wind power. Low energy consumption decreases the operating costs of the buses. Electric buses are also quiet.
"Linkker combines strong expertise in electric vehicles and manufacturing of light-frame vehicles. The introduction of electric buses will improve air quality and passengers' service experience in the metropolitan area. They will also make public transport more attractive and increase passenger numbers," says Kimmo Erkkilä, Linkker's Managing Director.