A white passenger bus has been often seen in Ventspils in recent days. This bus differs from the usual blue buses with its colour and sound. The reason is that it is the first bus in Ventspils powered solely by electricity. Although it currently runs in test mode, municipal Ventspils reiss hopes to introduce at least eight such electric buses in the next two years.
A couple of months ago, Ventspils reiss reached an agreement with Solaris, popular bus manufacturer in Latvia, on the organization of test runs of this new environmentally friendly bus. Solaris Urbino 12 Electric will be running in Ventspils for the entire week to test its technical capabilities and environmental friendliness.
«We have received the first impressions. We are now able to set rough estimates for electricity consumption per kilometre and rough maintenance costs. It is too soon to give a more accurate assessment. We also have to wait for feedback from passengers. We will see,» – Said Ventspils reiss Chairman Artus Liegis in a conversation with BNN.
The bus is 12-metres-long. It can cover a distance up to 300 km with a fully-charges battery. This bus model can be fitted with up to 40 passenger seats. Approximately eight hours are needed to fully charge the battery. It is expected that there are multiple advantages to using electric buses.
«One of the main advantages is that it makes the bus considerably quieter and more comfortable for passengers. What we are interested the most in terms of performance and which is also mentioned by our drivers is good handling. What is more important is that maintenance costs are already considerably lower in comparison with diesel buses. Of course, we also look at the impact on environment. Buses of this kind are also considerably friendlier to the environment. The majority of our town’s buses are E6-class diesel buses, which are already environmentally friendlier than the previous bus models,» – comments Liegis.
Ventspils is currently the only town in Latvia that performs tests of this new model of bus by performing everyday passenger transport. Jelgava and Rezekne municipalities also consider procuring four electric buses.
A similar bus model was demonstrated in Riga this spring. Rīgas satiksme does not plan to buy buses of this type. Instead the company plans to procure hydrogen-powered buses and trolleybuses for EUR 18 million. As a comparison, it is worth mentioning that an electric bus costs a little over half a million euros, whereas a hydrogen-powered bus costs two times more.
«We will decide on that, naturally. We will also perform economic estimates, because we cannot possibly rush things in this matter. It is also a project organized by European funds, because the EU covers 85% of the project’s total costs. Yes, the buses themselves cost more than the currently used diesel buses. In the long-term perspective, on the other hand, are more economically beneficial,» – Liegis added.
When asked how much more expensive than the current buses the electric ones could be, Liegis said: «Two and a half times more expensive. There is also the fact that our town mostly has small buses, and we need buses that could preserve the transport system in the future. This especially applies to route 22, which is very important and carries 60% of all public transport network passengers. This is where buses like that will be useful the most. With that, we will search for different solutions – we will also need medium and small electric buses.»
«I believe there will be new buses in Ventspils by the year 2020. We also need European funding because we cannot possibly afford it on our own. Like said – we cannot rush things. The project is too valuable to allow that. We can compare the situation to that of 2000, when Ventspils had to decide on replacement of the old Ikarus and LAZ buses with modern Mercedes. That was a jump into the unknown. The two situations are similar in this regard,» – said Liegis.