Volvo GPS-steered buses

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Volvo’s Zone Management technology is being tested in electric hybrid buses
Volvo’s Zone Management technology is being tested in electric hybrid buses

Buses that automatically switch to electric power and drive at low speed in sensitive areas are becoming a reality with new technology currently being tested in Volvo’s electric hybrid buses.

Volvo Buses’ electric hybrid buses have been operating on route 60 in Gothenburg for the past year now. This spring the buses tested Volvo’s new ‘Zone Management’ technology, which regulates how the bus operates in specific zones along the route. GPS is used to determine exactly where along the route the bus should run on electricity or diesel, and also how fast it may drive in the various zones.

“The bus is pre-programmed to adjust both fuel source and speed to suit the zone in which it is currently driving,” said Magnus Broback, Director City Mobility at Volvo Buses. “When it enters a zero-emission zone, it automatically switches to pure electric power without the driver having to do anything. City Mobility is Volvo’s programme for helping cities to switch to more sustainable public transport.

“This technology makes it possible to bring the bus closer to the areas where people move around: their homes, shopping centres, hospitals and schools. It’s an excellent example of how Volvo is developing technology that makes public transport more accessible, safer and cleaner.”

The test in Gothenburg is the result of close co-operation between Chalmers University of Technology, Volvo Buses, the Gothenburg Traffic & Public Transport Authority, regional public transport operator Västtrafik and other stakeholders in the Västra Götaland region.

“The environment and safety are two issues on which we continually focus at Göteborgs Spårvägar, Gothenburg’s public transport company,” said Dan Paulström, process developer at Göteborgs Spårvägar. “By being able to determine when the bus switches between electric and diesel power, we can show where in the city it is important for noise and exhaust emissions to be minimised, creating an ‘electric power’ zone to suit. This system will also be an important part of our drive to improve safety for our passengers and for everyone who moves around in the city and near bus stops,”

The technology will be tested in Volvo’s electric hybrid buses in 2014 and 2015 and is expected to be fully developed in 2016.