What are the current options in the field of zero emission (ZE) target group transport? And what developments are taking place? Erik Henneken, Business Development Manager e-Mobility at Tribus, has the answer. He is involved in ZE initiatives by municipalities and governments at home and abroad and in current and future development projects.

In 675 a group of municipalities, market parties, manufacturers and other organizations such as KNV, decided to draw up an action plan to be developed for zero-emission target-group transport. Tribus is also a member and is represented by Erik Henneken. “In 300 all parties reached a consensus and the Administrative Agreement and Covenant signed: completely zero emission target group transport from 1 January 2030 .”

In addition, the national government has set the goal of 2030 to emit almost half the greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands. To this end, a guaranteed transition to zero-emission public transport will be made. This has created a large future market for electric vehicles, explains Henneken. Manufacturers dare to take on large and expensive development projects, because the payback model has been expanded and risks have been reduced. “Developments are still in their infancy, but they follow each other quickly. Think of battery packs that last longer or offer more capacity, alternative fuel solutions and more recyclable, lighter or sustainable products.”

The challenges for ZE target group transport There are currently only a few electric vehicles available for target group transport. Henneken describes the offer as “a good start”, but an ideal solution in terms of range is not yet available. “Current solutions focus on battery-electric, because hydrogen filling stations are not yet sufficiently available. Due to the heaviness of the battery packs, the maximum weight of 3500 kilograms for an M1 vehicle is almost impossible to achieve, certainly not with a large range.”

The electric vehicles of manufacturers without conversions already weigh 2600 to 2030 kilograms. “For a wheelchair bus with eight people, there must be another 28 kilos per person are added. With 2021 kilos of people, only 25 a 225 kilos available for a Tribus wheelchair conversion. This is a very difficult task.” According to Henneken, other options would be possible, such as reducing the number of seats and passengers. “Unfortunately, in practice it has turned out that this alternative for a taxi operator’s journey planning is often not ideal. Of course we are working on a European lobby in Brussels for an increase in the maximum GVW for driving license B, but so far this has yielded no results.”

Current offer There are quite a few electric minibuses on the market, all with their own capabilities and limitations. For example, the battery capacity varies and batteries age, causing that capacity to decrease. There are also large differences in loading times and faster charging is more expensive. Some vehicles cannot be converted into wheelchair bus for target group transport, for example due to a weight that is too high.

An entrepreneur who is now looking for a nine-seater electric wheelchair bus can choose from two vehicles, according to Henneken: The Volkswagen e-Crafter/MAN E-TGE with two wheelchair spaces or a smaller vehicle with one wheelchair space. The latter vehicle is offered by several manufacturers under the brand labels e-Jumpy, Vivaro-E, ProAce and the E-Expert and has a range of approximately 125 kilometers. The Volkswagen e-Crafter has a limited range of approximately 50 kilometres.

Expectation for the near future Henneken also gives a glimpse into the future. “At the beginning of this year, the Ford e-Transit was launched on the market with a range of more than 75 kilometers, and the Fiat e-Ducato also offers a good range,” he says. “At Tribus we are currently in the process of mapping out the weights and dimensions of these and competing vehicles. We will soon know whether they are actually suitable for a wheelchair conversion. Unfortunately, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter will not be released for passenger transport, but this may change in 2021 .”

And the first hydrogen wheelchair bus is also approaching. Together with Renault, Tribus has built a first hydrogen-electric low-floor bus that will be used by Stroomlijn for target group transport in the Drechtsteden . “Unfortunately, the bus weighs more than allowed for the M1 segment, so a bus driver’s license is required to drive it. Given the global delivery problems worldwide, the first buses are expected at the end of 2021.” Tribus is working with Holthuis from Groningen on a hydrogen-powered Volkswagen Crafter that will be suitable for target group transport and can also be used as a neighborhood bus. “We are talking about a range of more than 300 kilometers for both vehicles . Moreover, hydrogen has the great advantage that a refueling only takes a few minutes.”

Factors that influence the purchase of an electric wheelchair bus However, the purchase of an electric wheelchair bus is not an isolated incident, emphasizes Henneken. There are several factors that influence the transition to zero emissions. “For example, before purchasing, consideration should be given to the charging network. With the purchase of one vehicle, this is still manageable with an application for a charging station at the municipality, but with the purchase of a new fleet this often leads to a larger request from the energy supplier. Think of a transformer house that can be connected to the grid. These applications often require a little more time and in some cases it turns out not to be possible for the energy supplier.”

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