article

ASSURED: Making standardised electric bus charging a reality in Europe

Intelligent Transport’s Leah Hockley sat down with Maitane Berecibar, Omar Hegazy and Aida Abdulah of the ASSURED project to find out more about how the project has worked to overcome the barriers for mass-scale bus electrification, as well as deployment, and delivered key innovations that enable the optimisation of fleet operations.

ASSURED: Making standardised electric bus charging a reality in Europe

Electrification of public transport is one of the main answers to cities’ ever-pressing challenges of poor air quality and traffic congestion. Clean vehicles are quickly transforming the way that public transport is operated in our cities, and many (European Union (EU)) initiatives are working towards creating the sustainable cities that we envision in our future.

Clean vehicles are quickly transforming the way that public transport is operated in our cities“

One of the core EU-initiatives working towards this future was the ASSURED project, which developed and tested innovative solutions to support the standardisation and interoperability of electric vehicles (EVs) charging. Both are key for large-scale electrification: they enable operators to mix and match different brands of vehicles and chargers, which makes their integration into the public transport network more flexible and, therefore, cheaper.

ASSURED launched in 2017 with a 39-partner strong consortium uniting stakeholders from the entire transport and energy supply sectors“

ASSURED launched in 2017 with a 39-partner strong consortium uniting stakeholders from the entire transport and energy supply sectors: operators, authorities, manufacturers, academia and associations. A final conference was held on 21 March 2022, marking the end of a five-year long collaboration.  

Intelligent Transport sat down with Maitane Berecibar and Omar Hegazy of project coordinator VUB, and Aida Abdulah from the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), who led the demo activities, to ask: how has ASSURED overcome the barriers for mass-scale electrification, as well as deployment, and how did the unique collaborative project spirit contribute to this?

Electric buses - part of the transport energy transition

ASSURED Interoperability Reference

With a strong focus on electric buses, ASSURED has delivered key innovations that enable the optimisation of fleet operation: alongside interoperability and standardisation of e-bus charging through high power fast charging solutions, the project investigated intelligent tools for smart charging and energy storage systems.

Alongside interoperability and standardisation of e-bus charging through high power fast charging solutions, the project investigated intelligent tools for smart charging and energy storage systems”

“For the real mass uptake of e-vehicles, different vehicles must have the capacity to be charged at any charging unit, irrespective of brand,” states Omar Hegazy of ASSURED Project Coordinator, VUB. “But effective interoperability requires standardised charging infrastructure. In short, this is what ASSURED did: we supported the work of standardisation bodies worldwide.”

One major outcome providing this support is the ‘ASSURED 1.0 Interoperability Reference’, a document aiming to enable e-bus interoperability and conformance testing of vehicles and chargers. “The Interoperability Reference was originally developed to meet project needs, but it can also be utilised in implementation by municipalities, public transport authorities (PTAs) and public transport operators (PTOs) or manufacturers,” continues Hegazy. “It means that they can test interoperability until standardisation as set by the EU is fully finalised.” The first document launched in 2019: an update, the ASSURED Interoperability Reference 1.11, was published in early 2022 following results from project demos held across Europe.

Standardisation of e-bus charging is one step closer to becoming a reality

Additional elements explored within the project were how to improve grid stability to ensure a secure energy supply, essential for future uses when a larger number of vehicles will rely on the charging infrastructure”

Additional elements explored within the project were how to improve grid stability to ensure a secure energy supply, essential for future uses when a larger number of vehicles will rely on the charging infrastructure. VUB’s Maitane Berecibar complements this point of view with respect to the research actions that are being developed in the battery technology: “Batteries are becoming smart, digital and more sustainable, overcoming bottlenecks – such as increasing the energy density and decreasing and avoiding the degradation caused when fast charging – that we may encounter today.”

In addition, unique simulator and smart fleet management tools were developed to enhance the performance of fleet operation and to reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO), enabling high flexibility in scheduling of electric bus fleets and high energy savings of up to 45 per cent thanks to the developed eco-features: eco-driving, eco-comfort and eco-charging.

Testing project solutions across Europe

ASSURED solutions have first been tested in controlled conditions and later operated across Europe. “The Interoperability Reference was tested and successfully demonstrated in Barcelona and Osnabrück, to charge buses with chargers of different brands in real operation,” UITP’s Aida Abdulah explains. “The results of this were used to create the updated Reference.”

In the same spirit, the Gothenburg demonstration tested several interoperable charging solutions for different type of vehicles (e-bus, e-truck and e-car).

Another key milestone has been the development of smart tools for optimised fleet operation, charging and energy storage. “This innovation targeted the demo fleets in Eindhoven and Jaworzno,” Abdulah continues. “[In 2022], the Eindhoven fleet will be scaled up from 43 to 100 e-buses; thanks to the solutions developed, we can reduce energy demand and impact on the grid. The solutions tested in Jaworzno have achieved significant cost reductions and increased efficiency of the charging.”

NJ TRANSIT’s Newton Avenue Bus Garage in Camden is ready to plug into the future of electric buses. NJ TRANSIT President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett today announced the installation of eight Electric Vehicle Chargers (EVCs) at the garage has been completed. These chargers and associated infrastructure upgrades represent the next step in NJ TRANSIT’s goal of transitioning to a 100% zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040. This work sets the stage for a deployment of the agency’s first eight battery electric buses in Camden later this year. “The future of transportation is clean energy, and it’s no surprise that Camden is ahead of the curve in adopting these technologies,” said Congressman Donald Norcross. “These busses not only get us closer to a zero-emissions future, but they also make our communities healthier today by immediately reducing emissions in our neighborhoods and cities. The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act will build upon state efforts by plugging New Jersey into a nationwide EV charging network, making clean energy transportation more available to personal vehicles as well.” “The completion of electric bus charging infrastructure at the Newton Avenue Bus Garage is a major step toward putting the first electric buses in New Jersey into service,” said Governor Murphy. “This program reflects our commitment to eliminating reliance on fossil fuels and to environmental justice in the state of New Jersey.” "The completion of this NJ TRANSIT electric bus charging infrastructure construction project marks a truly special day for the City of Camden and the Garden State," said Assemblyman Bill Moen, Vice-Chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee. "Not only will this project bring some of the state's first electric buses to Camden City - which will be another step towards improving our region's air quality - but this program's success will be the model that the rest of our state will follow as we work to foster a clean energy economy for generations to come." “Thanks to the installation of these eight chargers at the Newton Avenue Bus Garage we are one step closer to achieving sustainable eco-friendly public transportation in New Jersey,” said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJ TRANSIT Board Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “NJ TRANSIT is well on its way to transitioning to a 100% zero-emissions bus fleet in accordance with Governor Murphy’s Energy Master Plan.” “I am pleased to see that NJ TRANSIT is making strides in its implementation of green, sustainable technology and equipment, supporting the Energy Master Plan and paving the way for a green fleet in the near future,” said NJ TRANSIT Board Vice-Chair Cedrick T. Fulton. “The installation of these charging stations in Camden marks the next big step in transforming NJ TRANSIT into the green transportation innovator that I know it can become by achieving its goal of a 100% zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040 and changing the agency and the state for the better,” said NJ TRANSIT Board Member Sangeeta Doshi. “In order to see the dramatic shift into green energy, hard work needs to be done and words need to be turned into action. The rapid advancement of the garage modernization in Camden, with its eight electric buses on the way, and charging stations now in place, shows NJ TRANSIT’s commitment to making its zero-emissions bus fleet goal a reality,” said NJ TRANSIT Board Member James D. Adams. “With the successful installation of the charging infrastructure at our Newton Avenue bus garage, which will support our eight electric buses arriving later this year, NJ TRANSIT celebrates a significant milestone on our roadmap to a 100 percent zero-emissions bus fleet,” said NJ TRANSIT President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett. “NJ TRANSIT’s Zero-Emissions Bus Program is aligned with Governor Murphy's Energy Master Plan and we remain committed to achieving our goal of a fully zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040.” “Electric vehicles are the way of the future and having this electric bus charging infrastructure here in Camden City will allow us to utilize more sustainable means of public transportation and rely less on carbon emitting, traditional vehicles,” said Camden County Commissioner Jeffrey Nash, who also serves as the liaison to the county’s Environmental Commission. “We’re excited to have such a transformative initiative underway here in our city and we hope to be an example to other municipalities to show that investing in renewable energy will benefit our communities and our planet in the long run.” “I commend Governor Phil Murphy for helping reduce emissions not only in Camden but across New Jersey,” said Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen. “I am also grateful to Congressman Donald Norcross for advocating for sustainable initiatives and transformational projects which improve the quality of life for residents. It makes me proud to know NJ TRANSITS’s new electric bus charging stations at Newton Avenue Garage in Camden will be a first of its kind. This is a huge step towards making NJ TRANSIT greener. It shows a strong commitment to not only being environmentally responsible to customers riding NJ TRANSIT buses but also to all those living near the Newton Avenue Garage.” In September 2020, NJ TRANSIT’s Board of Directors awarded a $3.235 million contract to Scalfo Electric of Vineland to renovate the Newton Avenue Bus Garage with electric vehicle charging stations and other associated infrastructure modifications. The Camden project is a first of its kind initiative for NJ TRANSIT, which will test electric buses in real world conditions on specific NJ TRANSIT routes. This will provide invaluable data and information on the effects of weather, passenger volume, road conditions and other factors on electric bus performance, including travel distance available between recharging. The project will also review the infrastructure resources and work required to modernize NJ TRANSIT’s bus garages to accept new charging stations, and the significantly greater power feeds needed to energize them. The Bus Garage Modernization project was identified as a capital need in NJ TRANSIT’s 5-Year Capital Plan and is aligned with NJ TRANSIT’s commitment to achieving a full transition to 100% zero-emission bus fleet by 2040 and meeting the schedule included in Governor Murphy’s Zero-Emissions-Bus Initiative. As part of the continued progress on the ambitious Bus Garage Modernization project, the NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors just approved a $4.3 million contract with AECOM on Monday for 100 percent Final Design and Construction Asistance for the Hilton Garage charging infrastructure in Maplewood, as well as a systemwide survey and condition assessment for all 16 of NJ TRANSIT’s bus garages to identify the structural, power & utility, and information technology upgrades necessary, as well as other physical elements, to support zero-emissions buses .

Uniting a sector

The project is an outstanding example of how cooperation between the end users, industry, technology companies and academia can provide fruitful results that help to advance the sector and make a difference

According to Abdulah, a major contributor to ASSURED’s success was its collaborative spirit: “ASSURED has gathered around the table the most relevant players along the entire value chain, uniting different technologies and sometimes very different interests. In this sense, the project is an outstanding example of how cooperation between the end users, industry, technology companies and academia can provide fruitful results that help to advance the sector and make a difference.”

Still, the work to ensure cleaner and more sustainable cities does not end here. “We still need more efforts to ensure that citizens choose public transport and urban buses, because it is more convenient, comfortable and efficient than private cars.”

In this sense, the ASSURED legacy is ready to be transferred to other interesting applications, like e-BRT systems. What are the next steps and how we can continue innovating and developing solutions to advance the sector is about to be revealed.

One of the final outputs of the ASSURED project is the Clean Bus report, which provides an overview of the clean bus market in Europe. The report will be finalised in April 2022, so keep an eye out on the project website: www.assured-project.eu.  

Authors

Prof. Dr. Maitane Berecibar is the Head of the Battery Innovation Center in the MOBI research group (VUB).

Prof. Dr. Ir Omar Hegazy is the Head of EPOWERS Research Group at ETEC Dept. & MOBI research group (VUB).

Aida Abdulah is the Senior Project Manager – Bus Unit, from the International Association of Public Transport (UITP).

 

 

References

  1. https://assured-project.eu/storage/files/d44-assured-11-interoperability-reference-pdf.pdf

One response to “ASSURED: Making standardised electric bus charging a reality in Europe”

  1. Mitto says:

    The current trend of clean energy is EV. But, how this energy is produced at charging station? Are these energy a byproduct of burning fossil fuels else where?

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