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Electric buses at BSVG Braunschweig: Start in 2014 and a promising future

Bus 1501 of the BSVG, ex Mannheim 6002, in March 2023 on the Bültenweg in Braunschweig | © Martin Ritzau

Braunschweig’s start with electric buses

At the beginning of November 2013, the author had the pleasure to participant in a visit tour of  the Solaris factory in Bolechowo near Poznan, Poland, with a delegation from BSVG Braunschweig. The reason for the appointment was that the BSVG delegation wanted to take delivery of the first electric bus for Braunschweig in and around the factory. We took a close look at the bus at the factory, we drove it “into the countryside”: it did what it was supposed to do, and thus received the blessing of the Brunswick delegation.   

In November 2013, BSVG bus 1401 is accepted at the factory in Bolechowo, in front of the bus the then BSVG boss Georg Hohmann | © Christian Marquordt
First “steps” on Braunschweig’s streets – bus 1401 in January 2014 | © Christian Marquordt

The bus entered service in Braunschweig at the beginning of 2014 as bus 1401. It was a Solaris Urbino 12 electric, for which BSVG opted for Bombardier’s “Primove” inductive recharging system. At various stops along its route, the vehicle drives over a “charging plate” embedded in the roadway, which registers that an electric bus has arrived, and inductively recharges the batteries for 30 seconds. Stops on the M 19 and M 29 (or 419 and 429) circular lines running in opposite directions were designated for this recharging, and recently line 436 was also added.

In September 2014, four Solaris Urbino 18 electric followed using the same inductive charging system (nos. 1412 to 1415). BSVG emphasised – and still emphasises today – that this recharging system definitely works.

BSVG bus 1413, a Solaris Urbino 18 electric, on the inductive charging plate at the main station | © Christian Marquordt

Inductive charging also in Berlin and Mannheim

Two other cities procured battery electric buses for inductive Bombardier Primove recharging: Berlin’s BVG put four Solaris Urbino 12 electric (buses 1685 to 1688) into service for this recharging system in 2015, followed by as many as a fifth (bus 1689) in 2018. They all ran on line 204. Mannheim’s RNV added two 12-metre-long buses from the Swiss manufacturer Hess (buses 6001 and 6002) in 2015, which operated on line 63.

Mannheim’s Hess bus 6001 stands on line 63 on the inductive charging plate at Mannheim main station | © Christian Marquordt
BVG’s bus 1687, a Solaris Urbino 12 electric, at the S-Bahn station Südkreuz | © Rüdiger Schuckay
Berlin’s youngest inductive recharger, Solaris Urbino 12 electric no. 1689 built new in 2018 | © Achim Graßmann

And although Braunschweig’s BSVG – as we saw – emphasises to this day that “Bombardier Primove” does work, both Berlin and Mannheim discontinued the use of Bombardier Primove. The buses were “put on the side” and some of them are still waiting for someone to buy them.

In Braunschweig, too, the five Solaris from 2014 have remained until today, although they continue to make their rounds through the city undaunted. What’s more, Braunschweig also bought the two Hess from Mannheim. RNV bus 6002 is now called 1501 in Braunschweig, its area of operation is – together with Solaris 1401 – line 436. Mannheim’s bus 6001 was assigned the role of spare parts donor by BSVG, it will be “cannibalised” so that its twin can tour the city cheerfully.

BSVG was also once said to have a certain inclination to take over the five inductive reloaders from Berlin. When asked about this, however, BSVG says: “We cannot make any statements about the alleged inclinations. In general,

“We are not able to make any statements here. In general, BSVG is open to a wide range of technical solutions.

Braunschweig currently operates with six inductive rechargers based on the Bombardier Primove system, but there is no talk of expanding this network.

50 new electric buses by 2025

But now there is movement on the issue. The Braunschweig city council decided last year to really get started with electric buses. Fifty battery-powered electric buses are to go into operation at BSVG by 2025, a mix of depot chargers and opportunity chargers. In other words: no, none of them are to be recharged with Bombardier Primove. For relatively short-running routes – of which there are indeed enough in the network – they are relying on “depot chargers”, which are only recharged during the nightly shutdown “at Hof Lindenberg” (BSVG bus depot). For longer running routes, electric buses are to be procured, which – as is also known from other cities – draw new electricity in the conventional way on the line via pantograph. So despite the statement that they are satisfied with Bombardier Primove, this is a clear change in the technical concept of the electric buses. The BSVG justifies this with the fact that the market has developed differently despite all the advantages of inductive recharging and that there is therefore no manufacturer today who is able or willing to offer inductive recharging. “With this,” BSVG said, “we have to procure the new occasional chargers with a different charging technology available on the market.”

MAN wins the tender

MAN emerged as the successful bidder from the tender for the new electric buses for 2024. So there will be “MAN Lion’s City 12 E” 12-metre buses and “MAN Lion’s City 18 E” articulated buses.    

The first 12 MAN Lion’s City 12 E now on order will have a battery capacity of 480 kWh, ensuring a range of at least 230 kilometres, while the seven articulated buss offer a battery capacity of 630 kWh and can thus travel at least 180 kilometres. “This,” says BSVG boss Jörg Reincke, “makes the buses ideally suited for daily use in Braunschweig.”

The Mainz MVG currently operates a large fleet of MAN electric articulated buses. Here bus 621, a MAN Lion’s City 18 E, in front of Mainz main station, 3 April 2023 | © Christian Marquordt
As an example of a solo electric bus from MAN, here is a Lion’s City 10 E on a test tour in Bonn | © Christian Marquordt

Funding from BMDV and the state local transport company

The cost of these first 19 new electric buses is EUR 12.16 million. BSVG receives subsidies from the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) and from the local public transport company of the state of Lower Saxony. The BMDV will grant subsidies totalling EUR 18.5 million for all 50 new electric buses by 2025. The funding is coordinated by NOW GmbH (National Organisation Hydrogen) and implemented by PtJ (Project Management Jülich).

The BMDV is also funding the construction of the necessary charging infrastructure. BSVG CEO Jörg Reincke: “We are very grateful for the support from the federal and state governments, which makes a project of this magnitude feasible in the first place.”