Policymakers as well as the general public expect us – as a leading provider of public bus transportation – to meet our corporate social responsibility for sustainability by pioneering alternative forms of propulsion. We aim to take the first step by bringing a total of 100 battery-powered and fuel cell buses into service by 2024. Our long-term goal is 100% fossil-free operation of all our postbuses.
In its endeavor to promote alternative propulsion, PostBus is reliant on the cantons as stakeholders in the services we offer, and on its partners. Acquisition costs for electric buses are currently about twice as high as for diesel buses. Setting up and developing the charging infrastructure is a complex and cost-intensive undertaking. PostBus cannot shoulder these additional costs on its own; financial commitment on the part of the stakeholders is required.
PostBus has already commissioned a number of electric buses which are operating in connection with pilot projects. We now intend to take the next step by switching entire depots or route groups over to vehicles with alternative propulsion. Our ambition is to bring a total of 100 battery-powered and fuel cell buses into service by 2024. With this aim in mind, PostBus has finalized the first memorandums of understanding with local energy service providers.
"Electric bus" is the term used to describe buses fitted with an electric motor. There are three groups of electric buses: battery-powered buses, hybrid buses and trolleybuses. PostBus does not operate any trolleybuses.
Battery-powered buses only have an electric motor, which takes the energy to propel the bus from a battery. The battery is charged from the power grid, once or several times each day.
Our current fleet of battery-powered buses
Battery-powered electric Maxibuses are operating in Interlaken, Sarnen and Saas-Fee. In Saas-Fee, two vehicles carry winter sports enthusiasts from the bus terminal to the cable car station. Unlike the shuttle service at Saas-Fee, the electric vehicles at Sarnen and Interlaken are postbuses that operate on scheduled routes. The batteries of the vehicles in Saas-Fee and Interlaken are charged in the garage. Additional top-up charging of the postbus in Sarnen is possible at the terminus in Alpnach, because the vehicle's waiting time there is long enough.
A battery-powered electric school bus has been operating in Val Poschiavo since the start of 2019 to transport the valley's children to school. The seating in this vehicle is interchangeable, so it can also be used for hiking groups in summer during the school holidays.
The self-driving shuttles in Sion are also powered by electric batteries. They have been operating in Sion's inner city area since June 2016.
100 percent of the electricity for all the battery-powered PostBus vehicles comes from renewable energy sources within Switzerland.
Battery-powered buses for Graubünden
In Graubünden, PostBus signed a memorandum of understanding with the energy provider Repower in 2019. The goal of this collaboration is to electrify one entire PostBus route or a group of routes in the Bündner Herrschaft region. For financing, PostBus is reliant on the canton of Graubünden as stakeholder in the services offered. The political processes are under way.
Battery-powered buses for Ticino
A memorandum of understanding on electrifying PostBus routes is also in place in Ticino. The partner here is the Azienda Elettrica Ticinese (AET), the local electricity utility. The partners are focusing primarily on introducing battery-powered buses in the Bellinzona region. As the first step, one single local transportation route (Trasporto Pubblico del Bellinzonese – TPB) is to be equipped with electric postbuses. At a later stage, all local transportation vehicles in Bellinzona and the surrounding area should operate without fossil fuels.
Battery-powered buses for the Sursee-Lake Sempach-Rottal area
The Lucerne public transport operators' association (Verkehrsverbund Luzern VVL) asked its concessionaire transport companies to clarify which routes could possibly be converted from diesel buses to electromobility. VVL has since reached a decision on the five routes that are to be operated with a total of ten electric buses in the future; the vehicles' batteries will be charged in the depot. PostBus is responsible for operating the service on two of these routes. If everything goes according to plan, the new vehicles should go into service as from the end of 2021.
Hybrid buses have at least two different motors or engines (for example: one electric motor and one diesel engine). They also have two different energy storage systems installed in the vehicle (for example: a battery and a fuel tank). The hybrid bus category also includes fuel cell buses, which combine an electric motor and a fuel cell with a battery and hydrogen tanks.
Our current fleet of diesel hybrid buses
PostBus has been operating diesel hybrid buses since the end of 2011. At present, more than 50 buses of this type are operating throughout Switzerland on routes with high stop-and-go frequencies. When the vehicle brakes, the braking energy can be recovered; when the bus starts up, it is mainly the electric motor that is used. These two features reduce diesel consumption on these routes by as much as 25 percent.