Turnkey solutions: Brussels
Electromobility is becoming increasingly popular and accessible to public transport operators, and the expectations of transport operators regarding the products they procure are growing. Hence, among other things, the increased number of turnkey solutions, i.e. turnkey tenders – involving the purchase from the same entity of not only the rolling stock but also the infrastructure necessary for charging electric vehicles. This, in turn, is a new challenge for electric bus manufacturers.
Europe is betting on electromobility. Along with the dynamic development of the old continent, in many European countries, there is a growing demand for increased safety and comfort of travellers. In the interest of passenger comfort and the environment, carriers are increasingly opting for zero-emission vehicles. The number of electrically-powered buses registered in European countries, in 2021 alone, reached 3282, with the highest share of Solaris buses at almost twelve percent. At the same time, the number of orders for e-buses has seen a year-on-year increase.
To maintain their position in the market, bus manufacturers need to continuously expand their product range. This is also necessary in order to meet the expectations of customers who are increasingly aware of their own needs. An increasing number of companies are developing their portfolios not only in the area of ecological vehicles but also in the area of infrastructure and legislative solutions necessary for the electrification of the fleet. As a result, there are more and more examples of complex order processing, largely carried out by the manufacturer.
Brussels – an example of an innovative approach
Brussels is a unique city – the cosmopolitan capital of Belgium and Europe is at the forefront of innovative approaches to organizing public transport. Since 2019, thanks to one of the turnkey contracts, 25 Solaris Urbino electric articulated buses delivered to the Belgian capital have been running on line 64 connecting the Bordet district with the Porte de Namur, located almost in the city centre.
The order for the STIB customer in Brussels was unusual in that the manufacturer undertook to supply, install and commission the entire charging infrastructure for the buses, i.e. two pantograph chargers each at the terminals that are currently used to charge the buses during the day, and 24 overnight chargers to which the buses are connected after their runs.
The groundworks were carried out on behalf of Solaris by Schaltbau Refurbishment GmbH, which was selected as a general contractor for the construction work.
Electric buses fed with power from the metro network
Brussels authorities seem to be very enthusiastic about electromobility. The incredibly fast pace of life in the crowded city forces the search for innovative solutions. The city has an extensive bus and tram network and a metro system. By integrating the existing infrastructure with the new one, it has been possible to optimize the operation of the charging stations. The chargers installed at the Porte de Namur draw electricity to charge battery vehicles directly from the power grid of the local metro.
At Porte de Namur and at the Haren bus depot, 2 direct current fast chargers (capacity of 420 kW), with contact hoods for pantograph charging and transformers. The same depot also houses 24 chargers with a power of 20 kW chargers which, quite unusually, recharge the batteries of the Urbino 18 electric buses, using pantographs. The impressive station measures 7.2 m x 3 m and weighs 50 tonnes. Inside it, there are 2 fast chargers, a transformer, and fittings responsible for, e.g. cooling.
Turnkey solutions are the future?
Turnkey contracts are certainly a comfort for the client. Buyers enter into just one contract and receive comprehensive project preparation and execution. At the same time, turnkey solutions mean that the manufacturer takes on much more responsibility. Responsibility not only for the delivery of the vehicles but also for the charging stations and the execution of construction work, including obtaining the necessary documents such as planning permission or permits for the use of the charging infrastructure. In the case of the contract for Brussels, it was even more demanding due to the location of the charging station almost in the city centre and its connection to the existing infrastructure. All indications are that the demand for similar projects will continue to grow.