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The KVG in Kiel - Copyright KVG / Thomas Mau

The KVG is preparing for the future in Kiel

The municipal subsidiary KVG (Kieler Verkehrsgesellschaft) of the city of Kiel is responsible for local public transport in the state capital. As part of the ongoing requirements for air pollution control in cities, public transport companies are also obliged to convert their own vehicle fleet to low-emission or zero-emission vehicles. At KVG, the future for the use of electric buses has already begun. The official start of demolition work for the old depot took place on May 16, 2019. A modern workshop for the maintenance of the electric buses and the infrastructure with ultra-fast charging stations will be built at the same location until 2021. In dialogue with Thomas Mau (Head of Operations and Technology / Authorized Officer at KVG), we take a look at the future development of the Kiel transport company.

Thomas Mau (Head of Operations and Technology / Authorized Officer at KVG)
Thomas Mau (Head of Operations and Technology / Authorized Officer at KVG)

gcm: In Kiel, the 5th Regional Local Transport Plan (RNVP) laid down the guidelines for traffic development in the coming years. Which fields of activity does the KVG take on?

KVG: KVG Kieler Verkehrsgesellschaft mbH is a municipal company of the state capital of Kiel with currently around 640 employees - of which around 520 are in operation - and a fleet of 183 buses. The transport performance of currently 10,2 million timetable kilometers and the transport of approx. 34 million passengers per year are based on a so-called transport contract with the state capital of Kiel. The service portfolio is developing according to the objectives of the state capital Kiel. Essential fields of action result from the goals of the urban climate protection concepts, in which the "Masterplan 100% climate protection" plays a central role, the goals of the mobility concepts of the state of SH and the Kiel region as well as the special development prospects for local public transport that result from the RNVP and were decided by the Kiel Council as guidelines for the period of five years.

KVG converts the buses to electric drives

The KVG itself implements these requirements together with the administrative and political institutions involved. Here, topics such as the expansion of the range and capacity and, of course, the conversion of the vehicle fleet to electrotechnical drives are essential. As a result, in-house measures are necessary in parallel, e.g. the construction of a future-oriented main workshop and the currently difficult task of personnel acquisition.

The fleet conversion to electric drives of the public buses is subject to a concept decided by the council meeting of the state capital Kiel. The KVG is taking over the step-by-step implementation with the aim of having 2022 articulated buses and 45 20-meter vehicles with all-electric drives in regular service by the end of 12. This corresponds to a share of 35% of the KVG vehicle fleet. Together with the 33 hybrid buses currently in operation - here with 24% fuel savings - a share of 53% of the vehicle fleet will be partially and fully electrified by then. The final replacement of fossil fuels is therefore targeted in 2033 at the latest.

gcm: The use of emission-free electric buses will be implemented in the coming years. What criteria do the buses have to meet for smooth daily use and what does the infrastructure look like for charging?

Of course, we aim to ensure that the buses are on regular service and that they do not spend most of the time in the depot at charging stations. At the moment, however, the vehicles on offer are only able to run 150 to 180 km without prolonged recharging under real conditions. However, due to our operating conditions, which are given to us by the cycle schedule, we can only sensibly equip a very small number of circuits with such depot loaders. We are therefore still dependent on recharging options at terminal stops with high charging currents (500 kW). After further progress in R&D, especially in battery technology, we expect more flexible options for use, so that we will equip the vehicles that will be purchased shortly with the appropriate technology and the charging stations in the depot so that the vehicles and the charging stations are compatible with each other regardless of the area of ​​application are.

Development of the infrastructure for charging stations

The cell chemistry used in the batteries plays an important role. Against the background of the very demanding conditions of use in urban public transport, we are currently still quite limited in making a sustainable, sensible decision about the battery design to be selected. Aspects play a role here, some of which have a contrary effect. Examples include: number of possible charging cycles, C-rate, energy density, costs, re-use and environmental conditions.

gcm: The procurement of the vehicles and the charging infrastructure requires high financing costs. Is the KVG satisfied with the funding scheme from the federal and state governments?

KVG: In fact, the purchase price of these vehicles is currently around 2 to 2,5 times that of a conventional bus. The charging infrastructure at the depots and at the terminal stops must also be set up. The running costs resulting from battery cell replacement, maintenance of the charging infrastructure and the employment of additional specialists are also an issue.

The KVG is thankfully supported - based on the first procurement lot - from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety with a total quota of almost 60% with around 21,2 million euros. An application for an increase has been submitted for the second phase until the end of 2022 and is currently being examined.

Public funding

We anticipate that procurement prices may fall in the future, as the upstream efforts of the industry with regard to R&D and the creation of production capacities would have to be refinanced at a later phase of the market ramp-up - that remains to be seen. Certainly, the technology forms that can then be used in the years after 2023 will have to store other pricing factors. This means that, from our point of view, it is not possible to plan at the moment. In this respect, we are now and later also later more dependent than ever on financial aid from the public sector, as we again do not intend to counter-finance with increases in the driving tariffs.

This means that appropriate funding from the federal and state governments should be available now and in the long term, unless the municipal authorities can bear these additional costs, which cannot necessarily be assumed. The funds currently made available through the existing funding programs of the Federal Environment Ministry and the Federal Ministry of Transport for the procurement of e-buses and charging infrastructure, although they have meanwhile also been increased, are not suitable for converting significant proportions of the bus fleets nationwide and nationwide. Here it is necessary to consistently offer further support. The willingness of the federal states to provide funding is also very heterogeneous. In particular, those federal states that are currently not supporting fleet conversions in the bus sector should urgently take action, coupled with the possibility of mutual co-financing.

The energy purchase price also plays a special role. If the surcharge according to the EEG can be dispensed with in the same way as for local rail transport, this would be a good relief in terms of ongoing operating costs. Here the legislator is urgently required to create the right framework conditions.

More information on the topic of buses - click here.

Link Kiel Transport Company


Interview from summer 2019.

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