SHENZHEN BUS GOES ALL-ELECTRIC IN SUPPORT OF ‘SHENZHEN BLUE’
A PIONEER IN GREEN PATHS BY SHENZHEN BUS GROUP
“Innovation, Change and Pioneering” has been encoded in the “gene” of the city. Shenzhen is the first city in the world to go all-electric on buses, as its last bus that operated on fossil fuel was retired in 2017. Two years later in 2019, Shenzhen’s taxis reached a pure electric vehicle (PEV) coverage rate of 99.06%. By 2030, it is anticipated that the city will realize 100% electric transport. Shenzhen has been among the world leaders in promoting the use of electric cars.
Shenzhen Bus Group (or Shenzhen Bus), as a benchmark of Shenzhen’s public transport system, is a representative of innovation and change.
Explore A New Path of Development to Become the World’s Largest PEV Operator
Shenzhen Bus has operated for forty-five years since its foundation in 1975. The Company has grown, over the years, alongside the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (SEZ). It is fair to say that the history of Shenzhen Bus is epitomized with the city’s history of innovation-driven development.
Shenzhen SEZ offers an innovation-friendly environment that enables businesses to thrive via continued innovation. In terms of ticketing, Shenzhen Bus is the first “crab eater” in the city to trial self-service ticketing, launch IC cards, and implement multiple payment methods, including mobile phones and facial recognition. Additionally, the company has also made innovations in bus line operation, including partnering with ride-sharing businesses, offering tailored buslines and one-seat, point-to-point bus services.
Shenzhen Bus is also an industry leader in new-energy vehicle operation. In support of the “Shenzhen Blue” sustainability action plan, Shenzhen Bus went all-electric on its 5,698 buses in 2017, and again on 4,681 taxis in 2018. According to the 2019 Social Responsibility Report of Shenzhen Bus, with all-electric buses and taxis, the Company saved approximately 0.2 million tons of standard coal and cut 0.57 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions as well as 23.09 million tons of other air pollutants in total.
Zero-contact e-payment Photo: Meng Xiangyuan
All-electric Actions Go a Long Way
Shenzhen Bus started to explore green programs in 2009 when Shenzhen was enlisted in the first batch of “Ten Cities, Thousand Vehicles” cities. As a pioneer in going electric, how did Shenzhen Bus find its path without any prior electric bus application cases to refer to?
In 2011, the 26th FISU World University Games were hosted by the city of Shenzhen. Taking that opportunity, Shenzhen Bus planned to release 101 PEV coaches and 24 PEV mini-sized buses. It was a time when PEV buses were still new to the world. As a responsible busoperator, Shenzhen Bus worked closely with bus makers to test and enhance the PEV models in 2010. Two trial buses were tested on Line 202 for the purpose of dynamic testing, including months-long vacant operation. Then came the loaded testing, and at year-end, testing with passengers as short-turn buses. “After the dynamic testing, we issued about 400 recommendations for improvement and optimization,” according to Deputy General Manager of Shenzhen Bus Lai Dingqi. “In this process, support from the government played a key role. Without an official license, trial buses were not allowed on the road or to carry passengers. However, without dynamic testing, many issues wouldn’t be identified, for example, the braking issue. Will passengers feel uncomfortable when the bus brakes? It was fortunate that the SEZ government approved us for these trials.”
For Shenzhen, now an operator of more than 6,000 PEV buses, 125 PEV buses may not seem like a significant number. But back then, the launch of 125 PEV buses was a milestone leading up to a new chapter of Shenzhen Bus, triggering changes to break and re-establish the existing models in all aspects of the business.
Charging piles at Lianhuashan Station Photo: Meng Xiangyuan
First, changes in the operational mode. Recharging PEV buses is more time-consuming than conventional buses. Shenzhen Bus faced the immediate task of figuring out how to organizeand operate PEV buses at the highest efficiency possible. Second, changes in bus station management. Conventional buses can refuel at gas stations, while PEV buses require charging points, so charging stations needed to be constructed. Third, changes in vehicle models. PEV models that suit the needs of long/short bus lines and busy/non- busy bus lines differ, so proper bus arrangement and scheduling should be figured out. Fourth, changes in bus maintenance and staffing. In view of PEV buses, maintenance staff should have electric maintenance know-how, in addition to the mechanics. With these changes in operation and station management, staff shifts, accommodation, and other elements in staff management needed to change as well. Fifth, changes in corporate management. Due to operational changes, the Group’s management system and compensation system have also undergone changes.
“Looking back, going all-electric was a challenge for us, and also an opportunity. Through this early-bird experience, we have accumulated significant know-how to set up an operational system for PEV buses,” said Lai Dingqi. “To give you a direct case, the rate of operational efficiencies between a fossil-fuel bus and a PEV bus was 1:1:36 in the early days, but now it is 1:1.”
Charging pipelines at Lianhuashan Station. Photo: Meng Xiangyuan
Innovative Cost-saving Controls Won a National Award
With higher operational efficiency, how about cost controls?
According to the available information, under the city’s electricity pricing structure, the valley-period price is under 0.3 yuan/kWh, the peak-period price close to 1.1 yuan/kWh, and the off-peak-period price approximately 0.7 yuan/kWh. From this structure, the peak-period price and the valley-period price is a gap of three times. The cost of recharging buses during peak-periods is several times higher than otherwise. As a result, in the electric transiting period, we proposed a charging arrangement excluding peak-periods, where buses are fully charged overnight and recharged during off-peak-periods in the daytime, in order to meet operational needs. As the valley-period price is lower than gasoline, for 6,000 buses in total, the fuel/charge cost is one-third of that from the days before going all-electric.
What’s worth noting is that getting all buses fully charged overnight is not an easy task. The early charging point was each equipped with one or two guns. To charge 6,000 buses, in theory, they either needed large-enough charging stations with a lot of charging points, or significant staff resources to move the vehicles around. Both options were clearly not ideal.
Charging piles at Lianhuashan Station Photo: Meng Xiangyuan
To address this challenge, Shenzhen Bus invented a “Network-style Speedy Charging Mode” that enables a charging network by equipping each charging point with multiple charging guns. Also, a smart control system takes care of charging scheduling and rates from the back-end. This has facilitated maximum charging during valley periods, and on the other hand, saved Shenzhen Bus a hundred million yuan on charging point/station construction costs. This mode has won Shenzhen Bus a national patent and the second prize in the 2016 National Transport Companies Innovation Achievements.
Shenzhen Bus fully utilizes batteries from ex-service buses by charging them at night and using them on in-service buses when needing a recharge in thedaytime. This way, costs are further reduced, as the valley-period electricity price is applicable to the daytime recharging. In view of the city’s natural resources, the Company also trialed PV charging by converting the roof of some stations into solar panels to fuel buses. Multiple cost-saving measures have helped Shenzhen Bus save costs significantly, where the charging cost alone was down by approximately 50 million yuan in 2019 over 2018.
Explore New Technologies and Applications, and Expand Global Sharing
In parallel to going all-electric, Shenzhen Bus smartened up its whole operational system. It established a smart management center with smart scheduling, safety control and hotspot analysis functions. Under normal circumstances, buses are released every five minutes. However, during rush hours, when driving speed is slowed down due to congestion, the smart management center automatically gives longer headway to ensure buses arrive at stations at proper intervals.
In this case, it prevents a scenario where more than one bus arrives in five minutes, but no other bus is available for the next half an hour. Based on the smart maintenance function, the system monitors how long and how far each bus has travelled, and notifies staff when maintenance is needed or which parts need calibration. “Smart management has been planned and implemented right after the ‘go all-electric’ strategy went into effect. When the system was designed, the goal was to stay ahead of the industry by five years.”
When making the next five-year plan, Shenzhen Bus will stay committed to the all-electric initiative and continue to explore new technologies and applications. In 2020, a new bus green- wave signal line was released. Buses with a cooperative system and an assisted driving system can be aligned with traffic light scheduling, so that the green light/red light can be properly adjusted for buses. Shenzhen Bus has launched joint research projects on automated-driving buses with tech companies and bus makers. As of now, testing rounds for automated-driving buses have been conducted on the open roads of the Futian Bonded Area.
Smart Management Center©️Shenzhen Bus Group
As a key member of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), Shenzhen Bus has been highly active in promoting PEV operation and solutions to the world, in cooperation with the World Bank, United Nations, European Union and other international organizations. It will further enhance exchanges with global counterparts, including UK companies on low-carbon transport. The green bus brand of Shenzhen Bus has been highly recognized in the industry globally.
“Sometimes, we communicate with peers from other regions, and some might say Shenzhen does a great job promoting PEV, thanks to government fiscal funding support. Abundant funding is indeed a factor in driving the PEV use, but I don’t think it is the decisive factor,” said Lai Dingqi. “In the PEV transit, we can rely on fiscal funding for some time, but over a longer period, operational issues cannot be solved by funding only. I am most thankful for the supportive policy environment by the government to encourage business innovation.”
OCT East Station Photo: Meng Xiangyuan
Shenzhen Bus has stayed committed to innovation and sustainable development, including PEV trial bus testing, charging management/station construction, and smart operation and management of buses. Based on continued innovation efforts, the Group has, step-by-step, resolved some issues that no one else had encountered before. It is now an industrial model and a global benchmark. And this has been replenished with the achievements of the city of Shenzhen.
Source / China Automotive News, Shenzhen Bus Group
Editing /City of Desisgn Shenzhen