Small steps for the environment lead to greater change
The UN's global target for 2030 includes creating sustainable cities and communities and combating climate change. From our perspective as part of the public transport industry, this means that we must create conditions for more affordable and sustainable transport systems for the future. We must be a strong player in making sure at the latest 2030 we are providing safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all.
Even today, public transport is one of the eco-friendliest ways of transporting people, both in urban environments and in rural areas. In order to stay at the forefront, all parts must be looked at to find ways of reducing environmental impact. Increasingly more cities and countries are demanding to not only reduce emissions when public transport is in use but also examine the entire chain. By using new technology, we can find ways of reducing both emissions and financial expenditure, as well as creating long-term sustainable logistics solutions for both humankind and our world.
Information to support drivers
With smart technology built into the vehicles of today and tomorrow, it is possible to analyse how they are being used and then implement this information in a training aid for drivers to minimise emissions, and to reduce fuel consumption and wear on the vehicle. The aim is to make public transport fossil-free but it will take several years before this becomes reality. Until we achieve it, the most important thing is to use existing vehicles as resource efficient as possible. Just by driving relaxed and economical, it is possible to reduce fuel consumption by up to 15%. In addition to this financial aspect, it also contributes to reduced wear, calmer and safer driving, and a more comfortable journey for the passengers, so it really is win-win-win.
Waste of resources
In some places it can be very cold during the winter months, which means vehicles need to be kept warm in order to make the environment as comfortable as possible for the driver and passengers. According to Swedish law a bus needs to be at least 5 degrees centigrade when the driver arrives at the bus to start a shift. Cold starts have been used previously and the buses left to idle until they were warm, which is not environmentally sustainable. Today, it is more usual to connect buses to electric outlets and allow both the engine heater and the heater in the bus to be active for long periods. We need to be smarter than this. With today's technology, we can see exactly when a bus needs to be warm. By monitoring the temperature, remotely controlling the vehicle heating system and only heating if necessary, the process is made both simple and cost effective, while being a major energy saver. As an example, the Swedish operator Nobina introduced smart heating on 2000 of their buses and the result was an energy saving of 22GWh per year, which is equivalent to the output from two mid-sized wind turbines.
By extension, there is the possibility of not only timing when a specific bus needs to be warm but also automating the entire fleet to specific timetables to not only save money but also reduce the environmental impact even more.
Adapt traffic to needs
There is also much that can be achieved in support of more efficient traffic planning. With the help of technology that counts the number of passengers in real time and where most passengers get on and off the bus, it is possible to analyse passenger flows to adapt timetables and bus routes according to travel requirements. This fills buses and reduces the percentage of empty vehicles in traffic. A win-win situation with a reduced environmental impact and increased level of service for passengers.
Remote data management
Furthermore, with a well-thought-out IT system in the bus, only a few SIM-cards will be needed to manage all connected functions remotely, which reduces running costs and vehicle maintenance, facilitates data download and makes it easier to introduce new smart services.
Is it possible to do more? And how do we take the next step towards more sustainable transport systems ? We believe that while cooperating with other players with other expertise, there is great potential for further streamlining public transport with the help of technology. By linking a specific bus with its timetable, route, outdoor temperature sensor, etc., we can customise usage and maintenance to reduce energy losses and ensure improved working and travelling environments for both drivers and passengers.
Public transport should not only be financially justifiable, it should also actively work to reduce emissions and environmental impact. Then we can make a big difference in the long run.