On Sunday 14 March 2021, the time had come. At exactly 7:18 AM, the first electric bus of supplier Heuliez departed from the Remiseweg in Nieuwegein. With that, two special milestones were realised simultaneously. In Utrecht, 18m long new electric articulated buses entered circulation, and transport company U-OV had a new location to charge and park the buses.
With a length of 18 metres, the Heuliez bus offers sufficient capacity to transport up to 130 travellers. Combine this with the battery’s travel radius of 120 kilometres - all on a single charge - and it’s obvious that this bus is particularly suitable for urban transport. The articulated buses don't just stand out because of their characteristic appearance, but they also offer a significant amount of comfort to travellers. After extensive testing since mid-March, the buses now travel on city lines 7 (Utrecht, P+R Westraven-Zuilen) and 8 (Utrecht, Lunetten-Wilhelminapark). Line 3 (Utrecht Centraal-Overvecht-Zuilen) will come later in spring 2021.
Heuliez electric buses
The new central location for these e-buses is the new Remiseweg bus depot in Nieuwegein where the province of Utrecht created charging stations and parking space right next to the tram depot. There is also an office here with space for the drivers to gather. The Heuliez buses are not just charged here at the Remiseweg, but also at both Utrecht Centraal Centrumzijde and Lunetten NS station. Special recharging facilities were created for this, which greatly increase the travel radius of these buses so they can be fully deployed on busy city lines for an entire day.
Space for growth
At the new bus depot at P+R Westraven that is currently finishing construction and will be brought into use in July, the province of Utrecht has taken a further increase of the number of electric buses into account. For this reason, they have already placed a connection to the power grid with enough capacity to be able to charge approximately 140 buses in the future. There is an increasing number of electric buses, and the province has built this additional location for the U-OV transport company to recharge those. With these additional facilities at both the Remiseweg and Westraven, there is plenty of parking space for the U-OV buses, both now and in the future.
The province of Utrecht has decided to build both bus depots in-house. This way, public transport can be operated well from this strategic location close to multiple arterial roads. Additionally, it was important that the new Westraven bus depot became something more than a functional building. Therefore, the building was designed sustainably with a workshop that was equipped as cleverly as possible, so the drivers and mechanics could work as efficiently as possible. Solar panels will be placed on the workshop’s roof. The office will feature a green roof. The workshop will utilise as much natural daylight as possible. The building will be heated without using gas.
The new Westraven bus depot.
Extra capacity for electric public transport
To allow for the future recharging of electric buses at the Westraven bus depot, the outside area had to be fitted with firewalls for fire safety reasons. All underground construction to recharge the buses here has been completed. This also allowed the province the opportunity for greening the area. Garden walls with a variety of climbing plants are now placed at these firewalls. This green character is reflected by us through various insect hotels and nesting boxes. The building was built in as circular a manner as possible.
This extra capacity for the electric buses of Utrecht fits the ambitions of the province of Utrecht well. Jeroen Golstein, policy advisor for public transport: ‘The past few years, the province and the transport companies have made important further steps towards our ambition to make public transport 100 per cent clean and sustainable in 2028. With that, the province of Utrecht is more ambitious than the Administrative Agreement of 2017 for Zero Emissions Bus Transport, which states that this goal will be reached in 2030. The inflow of the Heuliez buses is an important step forward on this roadmap since we started with the first three midibuses in the inner city of Utrecht in 2013 and expanded it further in increasingly large steps. Twenty new Ebusco buses were put into service at U-OV in 2020 and they now drive on various U-Link lines throughout the province. And Syntus now utilises seven BYD buses for the city services of Amersfoort. During the preparations for the new concession, we will take the next steps towards the requirements we set for clean and sustainable public transport. We still have a ways to go with our 75 e-buses out of 500 buses total!’