Power switch: electric buses to take Moscow by storm

Moscow is set to give up on gas-powered public transportation in favor of going green – by turning electric.

According to a new public transportation strategy leaked to the media, Moscow is set to become a world leader in electric transportation by as early as 2015.

From now on, Moscow’s transportation officials will concentrate their efforts on the introduction and development of electronic vehicles, including subways cars, trams, trolleybuses and electric buses.

In order to sustain the current passenger flow, the capital needs around 12,500-13,500 vehicles. Officials propose to limit the number of diesel-fueled cars to 20 percent, while others will be replaced with electric buses working on batteries. Such buses, with 18-20 seats, may soon take place of the trolleybuses that go around Moscow’s Boulevard Ring.

The prototypes of the eco-buses will be submitted to city hall by November 1. Among the main requirements is the vehicle’s ability to travel at least 250 kilometers without re-charging, as well as to withstand winter frosts.

By the end of 2011, the city will open a tender that will decide the fate of the next three years’ purchases. Among the possible competitors are China’s Youtong and Russia’s TrolZa. The two types of vehicles constructed in Russia can now travel 125 and 250 kilometers, respectively, and cost 8 million and 11 million rubles. Bigger buses, with 89 seats, cost double the amount. Batch production could cut the costs by nearly 20 percent. The authorities hope that the eco-buses will pay off in four to five years.

Such buses, however, will require special treatment and facilities. In Russia, there is still no clear industrial standard for both electric buses and cargo transportation, meaning a lot of effort is needed before the ambitious idea could be brought to life.

It is also planned to equip park-and-ride lots with recharging stations for private electric cars.

The first re-charging stations are already being constructed. By the end of 2011, the city will have 28 of them. There will be three types of stations, which will differ in the re-charging time, taking from 10-12 hours to 20-30 minutes. Thus far it is planned to make re-charging free for all.

This is not the first attempt made by Moscow government to introduce electric transportation in the Russian capital. More than 135 million rubles ($4 million) was spent on a similar project in 2008. The authorities promised that in two years the capital would have electric buses and trucks on its roads, but the plan unfortunately never materialized.

The budget for the newly proposed plan to make the capital more eco-friendly is still yet to be defined.

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