Germany’s largest bus fleet is becoming electric. On Wednesday, 27 March 2019, Berlin’s public transport company Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), together with the manufacturers Solaris and Mercedes-Benz, presented the new electric single deckers. 15 vehicles each of the types Urbino 12 electric (Solaris) and e-Citaro (Mercedes-Benz) will go into service this year. The entire bus fleet is then to be converted to e-drives by 2030. This is the joint goal of the state of Berlin and the BVG.

On Wednesday Federal Environmental Minister Svenja Schulze as well as Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer came to the unveiling of the new e-buses at the BVG depot on Müllerstrasse. The federal government is already funding the BVG project with around 48 million euros in the start-up phase for the conversion of the vehicle fleet by 2021. The state of Berlin is providing support, assuming its responsibility as owner of the BVG. The senators for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection, Regine Günther, as well as Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises, Ramona Pop, confirmed at the launch meeting, that the conversion of the bus fleet to e-vehicles is an important cornerstone of the transport transition and has already been stipulated in the Berlin Mobility Act.

Up to 225 e-buses are to come to Berlin by 2021

The first 12-metre e-buses provide space for around 65 passengers – comparable to a diesel bus – and will shortly be deployed into service initially on the 142 line. Both models are equipped with modern passenger information systems and a large multi-purpose area for passengers with wheelchairs, prams, walkers or luggage. LED technology ensures the correct lighting and an optimal staging of the well-loved BVG seat pattern, Urban Jungle, which covers the passenger seats.

Of course both models fulfil the typically high BVG standards in terms of accessibility: large pictograms recessed in the floor, an additional monitor at the front directed towards the wheelchair spaces for passenger information, tactile handrails with grooved grip sections at the exit doors and a deliberately high-contrast interior design are examples of just some of their features.

Contrary to the BVG’s first e-bus generation which are charged by induction at the terminals, the new electric single deckers get their energy via charging cable overnight at the depot. The fully charged batteries provide a range of at least 150 kilometres.

The investment volume for the first series of e-buses amounts to around 18 million euros. In the start-up phase up to 2021, the BVG is currently planning the purchase of up to 225 e-buses, of which up to 210 twelve metre-long single deckers and 15 articulated buses, already ordered from Solaris and planned for deployment on longer routes, primarily line 200, are foreseen. Interim charging will occur via a so-called pantograph at the terminals.

Funding for vehicles and infrastructure

The fleet conversion is a joint effort of the federal government, the state of Berlin and the BVG. The BVG is bearing the costs which would have been incurred for comparable diesel buses. As opposed to conventional diesel buses, the additional costs will be fully assumed by the state of Berlin and funds from the federal ministries. The vehicles and the resulting costs of infrastructure are financed in part within the funding programme of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) as well as the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI).

Andreas Scheuer, Federal Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure said: “Local public transport buses cover thousands of kilometres in Germany cities on a daily basis. That is why the decision of the BVG to completely switch the bus fleet to electric drives constitutes a very important contribution to making Berlin air cleaner. We are financially supporting the project in the amount of about 13 million euros – and we have good news for all transport companies who wish to follow the BVG’s example: from today applications can be submitted for the procurement of electric vehicles and the associated infrastructure. For this alone we are making around 90 million euros available.”

The state of Berlin has earmarked up to 58 million euros in its financial planning for the electrification of the BVG bus fleets by 2021. For 2022 and 2023, a further almost 48 million has been announced. The federal funding amounts for the electric single deckers currently totals up to 35 million euros from the BMU funding programme for the procurement of electric buses in local public transport and at the moment up to 12.7 million euros for vehicles from the BMVI’s “Electric mobility” funding programme.