Electrification of Vitoria-Gasteiz' public transport - the new smart electric bus (BEI)
Smart urban mobility
The deployment of high capacity and 100% electric public transport is crucial for sustainable mobility to achieve carbon neutral cities in the near future. In the specific case of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the introduction of the tram in 2008 was an important milestone in the electrification of the city's public transport, together with the progressive substitution of city council’s staff fleets and the incorporation of 10 hybrid buses by the public bus transport company TUVISA.
In this regard, the Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council, the provincial government and the Basque Government agreed to finance the evolution of the circular bus-line with the highest number of passengers in the city (Line 2) into a modern and clean electric bus rapid transit line with 48 bus-stops (24 for each direction), 4 ultra-fast inverted pantographs, 7 articulated e-buses and 6 conventional-size e-buses (18 meters long with a capacity of 139 people and 12 meters long for 90 people, respectively). The smart electric bus (acronym BEI in Spanish) will cover a route of over 10 kms with a service frequency of 8 minutes and circulating through exclusive lanes for a large part of the route. Moreover, BEI will enjoy priority traffic lights at junctions and will serve key points in the city such as the main Hospital, the Basque Government Headquarters, Bus Station, University Campus or the Mendizorrotza sport and leisure facilities.
The tender for the purchase of the buses and the associated infrastructure was awarded in March 2019. The first e-bus unit, along with the pantographs was deployed by July 2020; the model presented was the Irizar ie-tram 12m long version powered by a motor of up to 180 kW with lithium-ion batteries. 13 e-buses that will replace 12 diesel buses that currently give service to Line 2 are expected to be in operation by the end of 2021, together with the completion of the construction works.
The new facilities to host the BEI were tendered on February 2021 and are planned to be built by late autumn 2021.
On 20 - 21 June 2019, one e-bus unit, similar to the one expected to be implemented, was presented on a public event and displayed in the streets of Vitoria-Gasteiz to allow citizens to have a glimpse on the new buses and also to experience the service in situ.
The final prototype of the vehicle was presented on July 14th, 2020, at an official ceremony with the city´s mayor and representatives from the provincial and regional governments. The citizens were able to visit the convoy, which was showcased in different places of Vitoria-Gasteiz from the 14th to the 20th of July (2020), to get to know its characteristics from a personal experience.
The city council set up a specific website to inform in detail on the development of the works (in Spanish and Basque); this website has later been replaced (July 2020) by the official one that contains all information on this new sustainable transport mode and also provides information on specific problems that may arise during the deployment period, such as implications on the traffic (congestions during the public works) and parking provision (due to dedicated lanes in the majority of the route, in areas with a deficit in parking availability for residents a significant part of them will be replaced at nearby locations). This has been tried to overcome by means of increasing communication and answering to citizens´ complaints one by one through the mobility forum and other participatory channels of the city council.
- Reduction of CO2 emissions
- High capacity, smart and more efficient (dedicated lanes) public transport
- Traffic noise reduction
- Charging and ICT infrastructures that allow further replication to other lines
- Increase in the visibility and acceptance of EVs
Investment: Total amount: 42,300,000 €
This includes public works, charging & ICT infrastructure and the purchase of 13 e-buses. The BEI project is 100% public funded and arose from the inter-institutional agreement between the Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council, the Provincial Government of Álava and the Basque Government. These partners agreed to fund 17.5%, 17.5% and 65% of the total budget, respectively. The fraction funded by the city council includes a SmartEnCity contribution of 395.000 € for the purchase of e-buses/charging infrastructure.
Potential for replication:
The Smart Electric Bus is a non-polluting means of transport which is incorporated into Vitoria-Gasteiz public transport network and enables journeys to be made in less time. It is a system which has already been successfully implemented in other cities in the world that, like Vitoria-Gasteiz, are benchmarks in mobility and sustainable policies. This is the case of municipalities such as Nantes and Bayonne.
The potential for replication of such a solution is important and it can be implemented in other cities.
However, in order to replicate this solution, some aspects should be taken into account. Large scale construction works have to be carried out during the project, so citizen engagement is particularly relevant due to implications on the traffic (congestion during the public works) and parking provision. In the specific case of Vitoria-Gasteiz, due to dedicated lanes in the majority of the route, in areas with a deficit in parking availability for residents, a significant part of them will be replaced at nearby locations. These problems also have been tried to overcome by means of increasing communication and answering to citizens´ complaints one by one through the mobility forum and other participatory channels of the city council.
Juan Carlos Escudero,
Environmental Studies Centre,