Bus park evaluates the experience with compressed natural gas buses positively

Jekabpils bus park is the first bus park in Latvia (located in Zemgale) that uses compressed natural gas vehicles for passenger transport. Just a year ago the first seven purchased buses went on the first routes and now they are a valuable and integral part of the company.

As Jekabpils bus park director Janis Scerbickis says in an interview, these buses have shown excellent results in the first year, for example, the cost difference (fuel) with fossil fuel buses is 35%. Also, the buses themselves have not caused any technical problems during the year. They are safe for passengers, they have climate control in winter and summer, stops are announced in audio and video, the driver's cab is isolated, which is especially important at this time, there is a platform for transporting disabled people, also video surveillance is carried out, which disciplines people from damaging the bus. In Jekabpils, these buses completely ensure the flow of passengers.

During this emergency situation, when the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the whole world, Jekabpils bus park has reduced the number of routes in the city by about 40%, but around 15% outside of it. During this time, only the compressed natural gas buses operate. Unfortunately, the company itself has had to reduce the number of employees, for example, the workers who are not in any way involved with the passenger transportation currently are not working, including the drivers that have been absent for a long time.

Although the number of routes has decreased now, Jekabpils bus park has no shortage of work, as now they are working on a documentation to purchase two more compressed natural gas buses. The first actions have been taken in the beginning of this year, which have been delayed due to an emergency situation, but it is planned that two more compressed natural gas buses will be added to the Jekabpils bus park in the spring of next year.

In the future, the bus park plans to continue using compressed natural gas buses, as they have proven themselves well. If there are projects or European co-financing available, the bus park is likely to explore the possibility to purchase hydrogen or electric buses, but it will depend on the available infrastructure, technical capabilities and capacity.

 “In this case, we chose gas buses, which are a transition from diesel engines to more environmentally friendly transport. This is an intermediate stage before switching to electric buses. For example, the technology for gas and fossil fuel buses is less complex, they are much more convenient and beneficial than electric buses. It's like computers - when they appeared, they were complicated and expensive, over time they will become cheaper and more understandable. Maybe when our gas buses stop working, we'll switch to electric or hydrogen buses,” says Janis Sciberskis, director of Jekabpils bus park.

In general, he considers that this project is very successful - passengers like the spacious and comfortable interior, the driver has a comfortable workplace, the economic contribution can also be assessed with a plus sign. Currently he does not see any negative aspects in the compressed natural gas buses.

When asked about the EU’s requirements to switch to environmentally friendly zero-emissions transport, Janis Sciberskis believes that everything has its own time. At the moment, their choice is in favor of compressed natural gas buses, but maybe electric buses will run in Jekabpils in the future. Public transport procurement is currently taking place in Latvia, where additional points are awarded for zero-emission vehicles, but Janis Scerbickis thinks that public transport procurement rules should have placed more emphasis on environmentally friendly transport, as this transition will not happen so quickly in the private sector. Consequently, it is public transport that needs more government support - zero-emission transport should have played a greater role in this procurement.

He also believes that biogas buses would be a good solution for Latvia to reduce CO2 emissions, but the amount of biogas that can be produced must also be considered. If it is not enough to make it economically justifiable to build the necessary infrastructure (for example gas stations), then it does not make much sense to buy such buses. Previously, biofuel produced in Latvia was used in the Jekabpils bus park, because the European co-financing within the project was 85%, but after its completion it dropped to 55%, and it became very disadvantageous for the company. Since the price of biofuel was similar to the price of diesel and the company had to cover 45% of its price after the project, it was calculated that the compressed natural gas buses would be more beneficial at the moment.