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Geneva expands its fast charging TOSA system: 119 electric buses will come from Hess

Hess lighTram®TOSA on line 23 | © Budach

Geneva’s public transport operator Transports publics genevois (tpg) is planning to have a 100% electric fleet by 2030.

Following an open international call for tenders launched on 24 March 2022, tpg has chosen to rely on the Swiss manufacturer Carrosserie Hess AG and its partner Hitachi Energy to build their electric buses and their infrastructure. The decision to award the contract was communicated to the various companies involved at the beginning of the week. It is still subject to appeal. The new electric buses are scheduled to go into operation in the first half of 2025.

100% electric fleet by 2030

In total, the tpg is preparing to order 119 vehicles from HESS which will be assembled in Switzerland. In detail, this will consist of 65 articulated electric buses and 54 double-articulated electric buses. The infrastructure required to operate this fleet on six lines of the tpg network and at the depots will be produced by Hitachi Energy at its Geneva site. Various options will allow for additional orders to be placed. “In line with our Cap 2030 corporate strategy, we are aiming to operate a 100% electric fleet based on renewable energy by this time,” said Denis Berdoz, Managing Director of the tpg.

From a technological point of view, the tpg has opted for an opportunity charging system. This solution, developed as part of the TOSA project, is based on rapid recharging of vehicles at the terminals and at one or two stops along the route while passengers are getting on and off (the “biberonnage” principle). It allows operating costs to be controlled. Indeed, it maximises the use of infrastructure and optimises the number of vehicles needed to operate a line thanks to a limited recharging time, while allowing the batteries to last longer and be smaller. Thus, more customers∙es will be transported∙es, using a minimum of batteries.

Historical experience with electric buses

After launching the TOSA pilot project with several Geneva partners in 2013, the tpg have been commercially operating a fleet of 12 electric buses on line 23 since 2018. To date, they have travelled 2.8 million kilometres on this route, saving 4,400 tonnes of CO2. The deployment of this technology throughout the tpg network is a logical development for the Geneva-based operator, which has the necessary know-how and the most experience in this field in Switzerland.

The first vehicles are expected to be put into service in the first half of 2025, after a homologation phase. It should eventually allow the replacement of all the thermal buses of the tpg which will reach the end of their life (189 Citaro diesel vehicles). This energy transition will be financed by the green loan contracted by the tpg on 1 September 2022 and the investment subsidy voted by the Geneva Grand Council on 14 October 2022.

As part of the conversion scheme, 22 km of high service bus (BHNS) will also be established. Among other things, a BHNS line Geneva – Vernier – Zimeysa will be operated by double articulated e-buses. These will replace trolleybuses on lines 6 and 19. 20 trolleybuses are currently in use on these two lines which will reach the end of their service life in 2025/6.

Tpg has already 80 years of operational experience of electric buses, by means of an extensive trolleybus network. The trolleybus fleet currently consists of 94 articulated and 10 double-articulated Hess and Van Hool trolleybuses, all built between 2005 and 2021. 19 new trolleybuses are to be procured by 2025 to replace older trolleys.

Hess double articulated trolleybus at the airport | © Budach (2009)
56 Van Hool ExquiCity trolleybus currently operate in Genève | © UTM/b

Additional benefits

For the population, the expected benefits are an improvement in air quality and a reduction in noise pollution. It should be noted that the complete electrification of the tpg fleet will only represent an increase of 0.9% in the electricity consumption of the canton of Geneva, according to the operator’s projections.

E-mobility in Geneva: Stadler low-floor tramway and Hess e-Bus | © Budach
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