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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The World’s Largest Electrical Bus Has Been Sitting In A Parking Lot For 3 Years

With over 200,000 electrical buses, China is the undisputed ruler of the electrical bus market. With over 16,000, Shenzhen leads cities the world over. The remainder of us are merely taking part in for second place.

And in that race, Bogota, house to 1,485 electrical buses, is the shocking winner! The explanations usually are not all that good: Colombia’s capital, not like most cities of comparable dimension, determined to wager all the things on buses (and is just now constructing its first metro line). The results of this, good and unhealthy, usually are not throughout the scope of this text.

Regardless, this all-in wager implies that Bogota has needed to work to make buses work, and regardless of all its flaws, it presently affords a dependable and easy-to-use bus service with practically full protection. Lately, town went by means of the trouble of buying practically 1,500 electrical buses to enhance service, scale back air pollution, and ameliorate driving situations. Thus far, the choice appears to have been successful, and the buses work precisely as meant.

Picture courtesy of Metropolis of Bogota.

However, sadly, not all information is sweet, as town has stored the most important electrical bus — a 27-meter-long, bi-articulated, LFP-powered, BYD electrical bus — sitting in a parking zone since 2019. The explanations are firstly bureaucratic, and to grasp them, we first have to level out the variations between the 2 bus programs in Bogota:

Transmilenio & SITP

Transmilenio and the Built-in System of Public Transport (SITP) collectively compose the general public transportation system in Bogota. These days, they work underneath the identical umbrella, however their histories differ, and so they come from totally different locations.

Transmilenio, the oldest of the 2, was born in December 2001 as a BRT resolution for probably the most crowded avenue within the metropolis and an alternative choice to carry individuals from the north and west peripheries of town into the middle, but it surely has expanded considerably since then. It operates with articulated and bi-articulated buses that may carry as much as 260 individuals every and, as any BRT, journey inside unique lanes. Oh, and so they’re crimson.

SITP was born in 2012 to switch the chaotic non-public bus system that had existed within the metropolis for the reason that Sixties and to supply an built-in system with Transmilenio (beforehand, in case you took a bus after which a BRT, you needed to pay the 2 fares); as such, it operates common buses (as much as 120 passengers) that trip alongside private autos. And it’s the SITP, not Transmilenio, that presently owns and operates these 1,495 buses that we spoke of earlier than. Not like Transmilenio, the SITP doesn’t have a singular shade, although most of them are blue (and a few of the electrical ones had been painted inexperienced).

It was Mayor Enrique Peñalosa who initially proposed Transmilenio again in 1998, and it was him as soon as once more who began the electrification of the system, as someplace round half the electrical buses bought had been deliberate throughout his second time period (2016–2020). And but, it was that very same mayor who blocked any likelihood of getting articulated and bi-articulated electrical buses, claiming that the know-how was “not but confirmed.” He blocked BYD from the bidding organized in 2019 for the renewal of the BRT fleet.

Mayor Enrique Peñalosa throughout an occasion held within the Portal de Suba patio-workshop. Picture courtesy of Metropolis of Bogota.

BYD’s Trials

BYD was the principle supplier of the electrical buses bought for the SITP. The corporate clearly hoped to grow to be a supplier for Transmilenio as effectively — regardless of Mayor Peñalosa’s refusal — and to clear any doubt, it despatched an articulated electrical bus for a trial in 2017. For 2 years, the bus operated with no points, and but BYD wasn’t thought of for the bidding. In case you’re questioning, the 18-meter-long bus averaged an effectivity between 0.82 and 0.94 kWh/km, relying on the kind of service offered.

However the firm was not going to surrender so simply (in any case, it made a killing with the SITP biddings), and in 2019 it doubled down on its wager, bringing a high-floor bi-articulated electrical bus known as K12A, the primary of its type and the one one ever constructed by then. After which … nothing occurred. The bus by no means obtained to satisfy the streets of Bogota, to listen to the sound of the jams and claxons amidst site visitors, nor to really feel the impatience of those that’re taking BRT as a result of they’re late for a gathering (and I’ve been one in every of them) … as a result of it was by no means allowed to depart the parking zone.

The rationale? Bogota’s strict laws has a weight restrict for BRT buses, which this one, simply barely, surpassed.


The Colombian Institute for Technical Requirements and Certification (ICONTEC) supplies technical requirements for, effectively, all the things within the nation. Within the case of the articulated and bi-articulated buses, the usual is named ICONTEC NTC-4901, and it requires that they could not weigh greater than 40 tons. Which is a matter, as a result of BYD’s K12A bus weights 44 tons.

This norm was reviewed in 2016 and the higher restrict elevated so {that a} bus like this one may function. Nonetheless, 7 years after this reality, the Ministry of Transport has not but adopted the brand new laws, and the most important electrical bus on the earth stays in a parking zone, ready for the time when it should lastly be allowed to serve its goal.

When requested in September 2022, the Ministry of Transport indicated that the problem “is being reviewed.”

Hydrogen Bus Pilot

Regardless, Bogota stays dedicated to greener, cleaner public transportation and, regardless of already having a confirmed resolution, town has began a pilot with a domestically assembled gasoline cell hydrogen bus (although, the cells are definitely imported, and the supply wasn’t offered). The bus, to be joined by 13 extra within the following years, might be powered with inexperienced hydrogen produced domestically. This pilot goes hand in hand with the Colombian authorities’s wager on inexperienced hydrogen as an alternative choice to change oil and coal exports, based mostly upon a budget electrical energy that may be produced on the windy and sunny Caribbean coast. Whether or not that wager might be folly or will succeed, it stays to be seen.

For the subsequent 8 years, the buses will function in Bogota to offer info on their value, their necessities, and their limitations in excessive altitudes.


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