The procurement provides that the new transports will be used in extreme conditions, including frost of minus 40° C. Nekā Personīga programme provides an analysis on the project’s possible benefits and if it is truly necessary.
As noted by Aivars Starikovs, spokesperson for Latvian Academy of Sciences, looking at it from a perspective of Riga’s air quality problems, the Latvian capital has conditions for emission-free transports. Two types of fuel that can provide emission-free transport are hydrogen and electricity.
This plan complies with Europe’s policy to try and establish hydrogen use in transports and create a network of cities to liven up the process. The partner in Latvia is RS, which intends to build a hydrogen production plant and hydrogen refuelling station. RS has announced procurement of ten hydrogen engine-equipped trams. If money is provided by the EU, RS will procure ten buses as well.
It is expected that the project will cost EUR 18 million. Although the equipment is expensive, it is beneficial to Riga because half of the money will be provided by Europe. RS has already announced the procurement. Talks will be organized to pick the best contenders. One of the requirements is making sure tram or bus systems can function under extreme temperatures (minus 40° C or plus 40° C).
When asked when was the last time Riga had experienced minus 40° C frost, RS Legal Affairs Department manager Didzis Stepe could not provide an answer.
«If the question is why such a requirement is included, it is not directly linked to the range of temperatures. It is, however, related to technologies that are used to assemble equipment suitable for extreme environments. Respectively, is the supplier is capable of providing durable technologies, we will be absolutely certain transports will run in Riga.
Former assembly specialist of the new liquidated Amo plant bus manufacturer Janis Freibergs believes that this particular requirement only serves to narrow the range of possible contenders. The requirement to ensure function at minus 40° C makes the procurement more expensive.
The choice of materials plays a major role. If I’m not mistaken, the lowest point for anti-freeze compounds is minus 37° C. This means a whole different substance will be needed for the requested equipment,» – says Freibergs.
For example, motor oil intended to be used in conditions of minus 40° C is 20%-30% more expensive than motor oil intended for minus 35° C. Tram manufacturer Škoda also mentions that Riga had provided special requirements for the supply of trams. Škoda representatives say RS puts forward exceeded requirements. Air temperature in Riga has never exceeded plus 40° C. Neither has it ever been as cold as minus 40° C.
Andris Viksne, head of the Forecasts and Climate Department of Latvia’s Environmental, Geology and Meteorology Centre, says that the lowest air temperature ever recorded in Riga specifically was minus 35° C in 1985. «It is the lowest air temperature ever recorded in Riga since 1982. This does not apply to all of Latvia, however. For example, Daugavpils had experienced temperature of minus 43° C in 1956. There have been seven cases when air temperature in Latvia had dropped to minus 40° C.»