There is about to be a huge amount of money spent on transitioning the nation’s bus fleet to zero emissions. The looming question is how to spend this money most productively, and in a way that does not create stranded assets or waste.
There is a large amount of dynamism in the zero emission bus technology space, not to mention the supply chain for either electricity or hydrogen. The capabilities of vehicles are changing, along with supporting infrastructure all the while fleet owners are being asked to put in a submission that may lock them into long term decisions prematurely.
These decisions include:
- When and how fast should I transition to zero emission buses?
- Should I go hydrogen or electric?
- Should I go for a pantograph or plug-in?
- Should I build an electrolyzer or do I truck in hydrogen supply?
- How do I most effectively apply for grants?
- Can I collaborate with other fleets in the area to share infrastructure?
- Should I do one depot all at once or upgrade depots incrementally over time?
- How will my operations be impacted if I transition to zero emission?
- What standards should I impose for vehicles, chargers, energy management and telematics?
- How much training will my staff require and what sort of training?
The question is: how to make all these decisions in the most sustainable way, during a time of great pressure to make a move quickly in many organizations?
For the past several years, transit agencies have approached this in a combination of four ways:
- Vendor driven engagements to pilots (for example with zero emission bus suppliers)
- Creating transition plans either in-house or with outside consultants
- Looking at the experiences of industry peers to make decisions
- Delaying decisions until things are clearer in terms of technology maturity
All of these pathways are valid, but as we move into the scale-up phase, the zero emission transportation experts at Evenergi have found that that the most important elements that contribute to success are:
- Creating a framework for managing long term changes rather than just point in time plans
- Establishing organizational alignment with an understanding that it will be an agile journey
- Avoiding ‘lock-in’ decisions as much as possible early in the journey to enable this agility
- Capturing valuable data at each step to be used at every other step in the transition
We are constantly talking about the need to create a framework rather than a series of point-in-time plans. This relates to a data driven and iterative process where there is an acknowledgement that with the rate of technology change in the battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric space, a plan is likely outdated the day after it is written.
The framework has many parts, but these can be summarized as financial, operational, infrastructure changes on depots and then regional influences. We then look at how these areas are impacted through the lifecycle of planning, implementation and management of the transition.
|Planning phase||Implementation (pilot)||Implementation (scale-up)||Management|
|Financial framework||Gap analysis – Total cost of ownership and capital vs operational||Analysis of RFQs against data||Final long term decisions||Monitoring data to feed back into planning and to optimize operations|
|Operational – transit operations framework||Buses meeting their service assignments |
Collective bargaining agreement implications
On-time performance vs on-route charging
|Depot emulation – can buses fit within dispatch given different depot designs?|
Can ‘fueling’ be sufficiently completed considering pull-out/pull-in schedules and service profile?
|Managing multiple propulsion types until fleet is fully transitioned||Optimized dispatch|
Optimal driver use
|Operations – energy infrastructure framework||What is the right charging design|
Early information from utilities around capacity
Optimization to minimize capacity requirements
Balance of distributed energy resources on-site
|Refueling/charging specification and selection and installation |
Energy management alternatives
|Refueling/charging specification and selection and installation|
Potentially larger upgrades
|Proactive energy management vs operational limitations|
Microgrid management on-site
Potential integration with dispatch systems
|Regional framework||Regional energy infrastructure collaborations|
Regional fleet collaborations
|Agreement on supply chains|
Agreement on access to shared refueling infrastructure
|Potential to share energy infrastructure with third-party users||Potential to coordinate infrastructure access|
At the bedrock of each step in this journey there needs to be a decision making framework based on robust data and strong analytics.
The next generation of planning framework requires a new types of data and analytics platform that should have a number of key components including:
|Enable detailed route analysis||Detailed data increases accuracy and reduces costly mistakes|
|Looks at all fuel types (including mix fleets) and all, charging types (if it is electric)||Reduce total cost ownership|
|Integrated into scheduling systems||Increase accuracy reduces mistakes and lowers ongoing consulting fees|
|Model depot impact||Ensures that unforeseen depot infrastructure costs are minimized|
|Model dispatch – particular once sub-fleeting is no longer an option||Ensure that costly operational errors are minimized|
|Interlining between depots and even between different fleet owners||Maximize opportunities for cost sharing and new revenue streams|
|Rapid iterations of scenarios and sensitivities||Minimize on-going consulting costs|
|Single set of data across entire journey||Maximize leverage of data and iterate learnings|
|Tools independent of any one consulting firm||Minimize rework as you go through different partners on the journey|
|Ensure that outputs from planning (such as charging profiles) can be operationalised||Ensure that plans can be executed to maximize savings|
|Make sure that data captured from telematics can feed back into planning||Reduce total cost of ownership through learning|
This is an exciting and challenging time for many fleet owners, but many of the questions stated at the start of this article can be answered with tools that exist today, with the power being placed in the hands of the long term operators of the buses and infrastructure.