Ebusco: the Tesla of electric buses

Date posted

Bus maker Ebusco based in Deurne, Netherlands, entered the bus market in 2012 as a new player focusing on the development of electric buses. “Ebusco is a real pioneer in the field of e-buses,” says innovation manager Patrick Heuts. The company is working hard to make sure it remains a pioneer.

Heuts himself joined the bus-building tech company in 2015. “Many traditional manufacturers build their electric buses on the basis of diesel buses. As a result, those vehicles are always too heavy. At Ebusco, the battery system and the electric drive are the core. We build the bus around them. This results in a bus with a totally different structure.”

He draws a comparison with Mercedes, which once upon a time developed a diesel engine and built the car (or truck) around it. But he prefers to compare Ebusco with Tesla. “You have to dare to think outside the box and come up with innovative ideas. Of course, as a new company you do encounter stumbling blocks, but new ideas are a very good thing in a market like this.”

Springboard to Europe
Ten years ago, an Ebusco bus was able to carry a 200 kWh battery pack on board, whereas now they have more than 400 kWh. In the Netherlands, Ebusco operates in Dordrecht, Groningen and Utrecht, among other places. At the end of 2020, it will also supply buses to Connexxion for the Haarlem and Amsterdam region.

Ebusco is now gaining experience with longer distances on regional routes in Groningen and Drenthe. Eventually, this will provide a springboard to other countries, Heuts expects. “The German market is only now starting to get off the ground, as the diesel lobby is huge, so it’s good to be there already. We already have buses in Munich, Borkum, Eisenach and Bad Neustadt. Bonn and Frankfurt will follow later this year. But Scandinavia is also an attractive market.”

Innovative ideas
One of those innovative ideas is to work on significantly reducing the bus’s weight. “Every kilogram you can save increases efficiency. What’s more, you need fewer batteries on board, which saves even more weight. And so it goes on.”

Ebusco also wants to put a fully autonomous bus on the market – and not one that runs in a dedicated lane like 2getthere’s ParkShuttle, but one that can drive in town with mixed traffic. That will take at least another five years, Heuts expects. “Safety is paramount, and we don’t yet have sufficient computing power for that.”

Patrick Heuts, Innovation manager Ebusco

Restrictive rules
Ebusco also wants to stand out from the crowd in the market for charging infrastructure. For example, the bus maker develops energy containers, which store energy and thereby spare the electricity grid. “It can offer a solution with smaller grid connections. That way, you can still get a lot of energy from the grid without having to install new connections and extra cables.”

System operators are not yet able to deploy these containers easily on their own. “As battery technology develops, this is becoming increasingly attractive and offers opportunities in the energy transition. We are dependent on laws and regulations, which can be quite restrictive. It’s crazy when you can’t really anticipate the future.”

Assembled in China
Many people think that Ebusco imports its buses from China. Not so, according to Heuts. “Assembly takes place in China; everything else is done in the Netherlands. We have a huge R&D department, because at our core we are a tech company that builds buses. We work with China because of the production facilities and follow the Apple model: we design everything ourselves and maintain control.”

Cooperation with China is a politically sensitive subject, especially since the fuss surrounding the Chinese bus builder BYD in the IJssel-Vecht concession. But Ebusco does not get involved in politics, says Heuts. “We can’t do the assembly ourselves yet, that’s why we’re in China. This is a business decision we had to take in order to be able to deliver at all. If we win a tender, as we did with Connexxion at Schiphol Airport, we do so on the basis of technology. That has nothing to do with Chinese or European production.”

Source: Biind magazine, http://magazine.biind.nl/7-2020/ebusco-de-tesla-van-de-elektrische-bussen/
Guus Puylaert