Helsinki to pilot lightweight electric buses

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The Helsinki Regional Transport authority and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd are launching an extensive joint pilot project to introduce highly-efficient lightweight electric buses in the Finnish capital. With its demanding climatic conditions, the partners see the Helsinki region as being an excellent location for the test platform for the new buses, which are equipped with technology that allows them to charge their batteries while in operation. Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) will purchase 12 electric buses from Linkker Ltd, which was founded about a year ago as a spin-off of the eBus project that was coordinated by VTT. HSL’s acquisition of the new electric buses is part of a wider four-year development project for innovative and emission-free bus transport in the city, in order to create the infrastructure and operating network for the introduction of new technologies.

The project’s objectives are: to pilot the electric bus system; to create more detailed electric bus specifications; and to introduce the idea of electric buses to regional bus operators. Reijo Mäkinen, director of HSL’s transport services, explained, “We made an exception and bought the buses ourselves, because it would have been unreasonable to have a transport operator shoulder the technology risks of individually made electric buses.” The arrangement also enables HSL to test and develop new passenger services on their own buses and try out various installations. HSL’s target is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and harmful local emissions from bus transport by over 90% by 2025. In order to reach this target, HSL has to implement electric buses, new low-emission diesel vehicles and biofuels. The first Linnker buses will be in service by late summer.

The Finnish-made bus is light in weight, with quickly rechargeable batteries. The buses will be delivered in stages and their performance will be evaluated in VTT’s chassis dynamometer. The buses used in the pilot will be equipped with sensors to collect data, and a real-time monitoring and control system will be developed to receive information about battery charge levels, as the amount of energy and charge in the batteries is critical in terms of the operation of the buses. Linkker’s managing director, Kimmo Erkkilä, noted, “The bus frame will be made fully out of aluminum. Thanks to their light weight, the buses will also be extremely energy-efficient. The batteries will be quick-charged at the bus terminal. Other benefits include zero emissions and quiet operation.” The project team is hoping that the pilot will act as a development platform for innovation, and other cities and commercial operators are expected to join in. Nils-Olof Nylund, head of VTT’s TransSmart research program, commented, “HSL has made a genuine ‘catalytic acquisition’ to speed up the electrification of bus transport systems. VTT has been involved in the development of electric buses right from the start, and we are pleased to say that Finland is creating an international reference for electric buses.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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