Trolley Bus Market in Europe: Making Sustainable Conveyance a Reality

Europe has been a frontrunner in putting one step forward and leading the charge for zero-emission vehicles in line with the goals provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a response to the global concerns regarding climate change. While Europe aims at net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, there has been immense pressure on players across industries and transport to align themselves to the global sustainability goals. This has sparked a frenzy of innovation into fuel efficiency and the viability and scalability of alternative fuel sources that have a smaller carbon footprint. This is also being driven by consumer awareness about rising air pollution levels and preference for vehicles that run on clean and renewable source of energy.

Countries in Europe are already battling air pollution levels by already electrifying some components of the public transport system to keep pace with the reduction of greenhouse gases. They are strengthening urban public transport by using vehicles that are powered by electricity. With trolley buses being a significant chunk of most public transport, this trend has had a positive impact on the trolley bus market in Europe, causing it to grow at a steady and moderate speed.

Dual Mode and Battery Powered Trolley Buses

The need to reduce overhead wiring in cities has led come cities shifting to trolley buses that are dual-powered and in some cases, battery driven. Dual powered buses, which the more common of the two, have a dual mode engine that allows them to run on diesel on surface streets and switch to electric power consumption when in tunnels drawn from overhead lines. They have been a big success due to their high reliability, but are giving way to battery powered vehicles in some countries in Europe.

The newer generation of trolley busses, which are battery powered, won’t use any diesel fuel, and are be expected to run all day and charge overnight. Manufacturers in the trolley bus industry are looking into the application of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries to keep up with the pace of reduction in emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in Europe. These trolley buses are designed to harvest electricity from the kinetic energy during braking, known as regenerative braking and offer a higher static torque and enhanced braking capability as well, definite advantages over regular motorbuses.

This shift to better technology applied trolley buses are also likely to contribute positively to the growth of the trolley bus market in Europe.

Hydrogen fuel cells for trolley buses

The popularity of hydrogen fuel cells in the larger automotive industry has seeped into the trolley bus market as well. Manufacturers are exploring hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a viable alternative using renewable energy, mainly to reduce the carbon footprint and improve fuel efficiency in trolley buses. Manufacturers are looking at paving the future with fuel cell technology where hydrogen is to be used to power the battery of the buses.

The advantages that a hydrogen fuel cell offers include zero-emission and reduced oil dependency. This cutting edge technology is set to revolutionize public transport as it they are less expensive, lighter to use and fuel efficiency, and are being seen as having great potential, by the players in the trolley bus market.

History Repeats Itself: The Future of Transport is Electric

The history of trolley buses started with the Elektromote experiment in Berlin, in the latter half of the 19th century, which was where the terms trolley car and trolley bus got their names. The increasing innovation and development of trolley cars continued to be tested in Europe and outside until the first half of the 20th century when they became common place on both sides of the pond.  With some of the oldest trolley buses still running in Europe, operating since the 40s, the demand for them in urban settings, particularly cities has only grown. Countries are increasingly adopting the trolley bus system as they offer a quiet, reliable, emission-free public transport solution that ease the overall burden on the city, particularly that of air pollution. They are also popular as they have a low operational cost, contributing significantly to the reduction in the economic burden of the country.

The biggest selling point and cause of popularity of these electric trolley buses is that they are in line with the zero-emission initiative in Europe, causing no emission of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases, thereby improving the ecological balance of a crowded city.

Challenges such as heavier engines and smaller capacity for energy storage are being looked into by manufacturers in the trolley bus market and solutions such as regenerative braking and flash-charging are set to contribute to the growth of the trolley bus market. Trolley buses are regaining popularity as they are being seen as a crucial aspect of the green public transport solution, bringing the story of trolley buses in a full circle.

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About the Author

Nikhil Kaitwade

With over 8 years of experience in market research and consulting industry, Nikhil has worked on more than 250 research assignments pertaining to chemicals, materials and energy sector. He has worked directly with about 35 reputed companies as lead consultant for plant expansion, product positioning, capacity factor analysis, new market/segment exploration, export market opportunity evaluation and sourcing strategies.

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