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An exciting partnership for the future of public transport

An exciting partnership for the future of public transport

Enel X and software company Optibus are joining forces in order to perfect electric bus services worldwide

Published on FEBRUARY 10, 2022
Enel X’s superior expertise in infrastructure and smart charging is being enhanced by Optibus’s planning, scheduling, and optimization software platform, thereby bringing the entire public transport sector on board the EV revolution. The partnership enables access to both physical EV infrastructure and EV operational software, thus significantly accelerating and improving the roll-out of EVs. This effectively reduces the need to rely on fossil fuels, leading to improved air quality and bringing cities closer to zero-emissions targets. In order to find out more about the benefits of this partnership, we spoke to Optibus’s CEO and co-founder, Amos Haggiag, and Enel X’s Head of eBus Global e-City, Valerio Vadacchino.

What are the greatest challenges facing public transportation?

Amos Haggiag: There are two pressing challenges that the industry faces today. I would say the first is the declining use of public transport, which is largely due to Covid and the fact that people are working from home. They don't need to go to work every day and, when they do, they prefer to use private cars. This means more congestion, even though there are fewer people on the road, which is a paradox. The second challenge is the global driver shortage. This is fueled by a combination of Covid, the tough work conditions that have prompted drivers to leave public transportation for delivery or trucking jobs. Many drivers are also taking early retirement.

 

An even greater challenge is electric bus operations. Rolling out electric buses is far more complicated than simply replacing a diesel bus with an electric one. You need to charge the vehicle effectively and ensure that your chargers are located in the best places along the route. Costs for charging can vary greatly during the course of the day. Then there’s the issue of when to recharge. If I have 60% battery and I’m near the charger, and the electricity cost is low, do I charge now, or do I keep going? These are very complex decisions and you need data-driven decision-making tools and algorithms in order to decide where to locate the chargers and when to charge which vehicle.

That is where Optibus comes in: our algorithms help customers make complicated decisions, like what percentage to charge and how to combine diesel and electric buses on the same route. All of this requires current and complete data.

What would you say to the mayor of a city who’s thinking about acquiring some electric buses?

Amos Haggiag: First, obviously, eBuses are much better for the environment, sustainability, and reducing pollution. Reducing emissions in residential areas is particularly important for improving community health. Second, electric buses are much quieter than diesel buses, which reduces noise pollution and creates cities that are much more pleasant to live in, visit, and enjoy. Third, bus trips are themselves smoother and more pleasant for passengers when the bus is electric. And fourth, eBuses are more affordable in terms of maintenance in the long-run, in comparison to diesel buses. I think all these factors can encourage more people to use public transit, and that's a major plus for cities as well, since it improves air quality and redirects investment towards parking, more car lanes, towards more space for people. Once a city decides to use EVs, then it should also consider how to run these vehicles efficiently.

How do you view the Optibus/Enel X collaboration on eBus operations and solutions?

Amos Haggiag: Optibus is a software company. We’re not producing buses. Optibus develops and provide the digital tools for optimizing and managing vehicle fleets, charging times, drivers, and more. Enel X, on the other hand, gives customers access to physical charging infrastructure and electric bus fleets and helps them overcome the initial challenges that occur in the transition from diesel to electric. So, with Optibus and Enel X, customers have access to all the elements needed to transition to fully electric operations. It’s an end-to-end solution that the whole industry can get on board with and which accelerates the reduction of carbon emissions.
Valerio Vadacchino: Enel X and Optibus are very complementary. Electrifying a public transportation fleet also implies a change in the approach by public transport operators. They tend to see changing a fleet as not just the replacement of vehicles: we also need to change the approach from product to system. It’s not just about replacing a vehicle: you need new infrastructure, you need to manage the fleet in an optimized way. We now have 3,000 electric buses globally. And so Optibus is a really good fit for us, thanks to its software and very sophisticated algorithms. Optibus enables us to design the project correctly from the start.

What is the importance of investment in electrification? How do you view its significance in regard to today’s public transport solutions?

Valerio Vadacchino: The public transport system is the backbone of a city. And when you think about pushing the electrification of mobility,  the public transport fleet could also be a framework, a benchmark and an incentive for citizens. Look, even if you are still a little bit skeptical about electric mobility, if you take an electric bus, you can convince yourself that electric mobility is the best option, that it’s a reality that is working. Investing in the electrification of public transport has immediate benefits for the environmental situation of the city, also for the quality of service of public transport. It could also be a good example of public administration toward the citizen, in moving into the electric mobility transition.
Our Commitment

Our Commitment

We are leading the change, accelerating the energy transition

How can the transition to electrification of public transportation be accelerated?

Valerio Vadacchino: We are hearing a lot of very good and very ambitious statements from different governments around the world about electrifying their fleets by 2030, 2040, at the latest. On paper, that’s great, but it's not enough because we also need action. Electric buses have a longer life because they have fewer components, and maintenance is cheaper. So, if you build up tenders that take into consideration the benefits of electric buses, it means that the potential initial high investment can be recouped in the medium-long term. So, policy makers need to move quickly. And, secondly, regulators, policy makers, and public institutions in general need to encourage public-private partnerships in which private companies like Enel X, for example, can support public transport operators right from the start. Regulators, central and local governments need to issue tenders that really encourage public transport operators to replace old fleets with electric ones.
Electrification

Electrification

The process driving the energy transition for a sustainable world