Tallinn to acquire over 650 electric buses by 2035

Examples of Tallinn's current rolling stock of buses.
Examples of Tallinn's current rolling stock of buses. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Tallinn public transportation company Tallinna Linnatranspordi AS (TLT) is planning to switch fully to electric transport by 2035, which will mean the purchase of some 650 electric buses and the abandoning of trolleybuses as well as buses running on natural gas.

According to TLT management board chairman Deniss Boroditš, the company is planning on replacing its entire fleet of vehicles by 2035.

"Trolleybuses by then as well — an electric bus is like a trolleybus but in a new form," Boroditš told BNS. "We definitely also want to make additions to some routes, and add new routes. In total, this means approximately 650-700 transport units."

According to the head of TLT, the cost of an electric bus can vary significantly depending on the manufacturer. While he initially cited a price tag of €500,000 per bus, he added that cheaper Chinese buses may cost just €150,000 each, adding that the technology is becoming cheaper with time.

"An electric bus is no longer a test bus, but also a bus in mass production, and the thing with rolling stock is that the bigger it becomes, the cheaper it is," he noted.

Pilot to be launched on two bus routes

TLT and Estonian state-owned energy group Eesti Energia on Tuesday signed a cooperation agreement on the testing of electric buses in Tallinn and finding solutions for the improvement of the charging of these vehicles.

According to the agreement, the electric buses will be tested on up to two city bus routes in Tallinn, and during the pilot project, Eesti Energia will develop a smart charging solution which will allow for the management of charging according to electricity prices and loads, Eesti Energia said.

Within the framework of the pilot project, bus routes will be selected in Tallinn to be served by ten electric buses in preparation for the wider implementation of electric transport in the capital city.

Eesti Energia management board member Margus Vals said that the company's goal is to be prepared for the general increase in the number of electric cars.

"According to popular belief, the growth of electric transport will cause an overload on the electricity network," he said. "We believe that this burden may not develop into a problem, as electric vehicles can also be considered storage devices. The idea of the use of storage technology in the energy sector lies in energy being stored during cheaper electricity prices and introduced into use once prices are higher."

According to Mr Vals, the stored energy can also be directed back into the network and used to disperse the electricity load's network, increase the implementation of renewable energy, and ensure the stability of the network around the time Estonia is desynchronised from the Russian electricity system. "Thus, in conclusion, we believe that electric cars can be put to work as part of the network," he said.

First buses as soon as next year

TLT and Eesti Energia also hope to secure support for at least the pilot project.

"In terms of the joint project, there are a couple of funds from which we wish to receive funding, one being Horizon 2020," Boroditš said. "We definitely hope to receive external funding as well."

The first ten or so electric buses and initial necessary infrastructure could arrive in Tallinn as soon as next year.

With the current technology, an electric bus can travel approximately 150km with one charge, but city buses in Tallinn cover some 450km per day. According to Boroditš, however, charging may be possible at depots as well as terminus.

"But let us also consider the perspective," Boroditš continued. "I think that, in a few years, there will be batteries that would allow for drives without charging meanwhile — that a bus can drive out in the morning and have enough power until it returns to the bus depot in the evening. We know that technology will continue to develop."

TLT's plan to go fully electric by 2035 will also mean abandoning natural gas buses by this time as well — buses that the city has yet to even acquire.

"We are still in the process of acquiring the gas buses," he explained. "Their lifespan has been calculated for us to be around 8-10 years. We also want to keep our rolling stock relatively young."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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