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Regionalverkehr Köln – the first two battery electric buses

The new RVK electric bus 300 (left) and its brother 100 (right), in front of them Rhein-Sieg District Administrator Sebastian Schuster, RVK Managing Director Dr. Marcel Frank and go.Rheinland Managing Director Dr. Norbert Reinkober | © RVK

RVK (Regionalverkehr Köln GmbH) currently operates 72 buses, which is not only Germany’s largest fleet of buses running on hydrogen and a fuel cell: no transport company in Europe currently has more hydrogen buses than RVK. Their vehicles are currently from the manufacturers Van Hool (37 buses) and Solaris (35 buses).  And soon more buses will be added, this time from the Northern Irish bus manufacturer Wrightbus, so that the fleet will then already comprise 100 hydrogen buses. We reported here: https://www.urban-transport-magazine.com/en/rvk-cologne-and-its-history-of-its-hydrogen-buses/. RVK managing director Dr. Marcel Frank recently mentioned March 2024 as the delivery date for the (first) Wright.

The then RVK managing director Eugen Puderbach justified the use of hydrogen buses to the author primarily with the much greater range of the fuel cell buses. In addition, a refuelling process for the hydrogen bus only takes about 10 minutes, while a charging process for the battery bus can take three to four hours. In addition, RVK also wants to drive electrically in places where the necessary charging infrastructure for battery-electric buses cannot be built. For example, in remote “corners” of the Eifel or the Bergisches Land. “It would be far too much effort to set up a recharging station in a village in the Eifel hard on the Belgian border. Especially as the power supply available in this village today would sometimes not even be sufficient to operate a charging station.”

So RVK is convinced of its hydrogen buses, and for good reason. And yet they now presented their first two purely battery-electric buses on 13 September 2023 at the Meckenheim depot (near Bonn). The 100 and 300 are Solaris Urbino 12 electric buses.

Currently, both coaches are operated from the Meckenheim depot because there is only a recharging station in Meckenheim. However, one of the two will move to the Wermelskirchen depot as soon as the recharging station is completed there.

Dr. Norbert Reinkober, Managing Director of “go.Rheinland”: “The conversion of bus fleets to alternative drives is associated with high costs for the transport companies.  Through the funding, we can help public transport to take another important step in the implementation of national and global climate and environmental protection goals.”

And RVK Managing Director Dr Marcel Frank said: “A mix of different propulsion systems is necessary for our sustainable fleet and the goal of zero emissions by 2030. We are very pleased that, in addition to hydrogen, we have now also laid the foundation for electric mobility in the Rhein-Sieg district – and will soon do so in the Rheinisch-Bergisch district.” 

The local transport association “go.Rheinland” subsidised the purchase of the two buses and the charging infrastructure with 1,075,100 euros, 258,400 euros for the charging infrastructure in Meckenheim, 361,700 euros for the one in Wermelskirchen, and 227,500 euros for each of the two buses.

Currently, RVK uses hydrogen and battery-electric buses as well as cars that run on biogas. Biogas is not 100 per cent pollutant-free, but it is a truly remarkable 97 per cent (according to the manufacturer MAN), which is virtually pollutant-free. 

RVK managing director Frank recently had another interesting piece of news: at the turn of the year 2023 / 2024, the Euskirchen depot is to receive seven battery-electric minibuses from the Austrian-Slovenian manufacturer K-Bus (Kutsenits).

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