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Fuel options for public bus fleets in Sweden

Sweden aims at 90% renewable fuels in public transport by 2020. While some regions are moving fast towards the target, others have reached no more than 10% renewable fuels in their fleets. The purpose of this project was to implement a comparative analysis of renewable fuel options and strategies at county level in Sweden with an eye to construct a successful and replicable strategy for a fossil-free public transport.

Sweden has set the ambition of acquiring a fossil-free vehicle fleet until 2030. This project has looked at the efforts to shift the public bus fleets in this direction, and the results achieved across the country. Bus transport services are offered in all municipalities in Sweden and accounted for 52% of passenger boarding in public transport in 2013. Renewables responded for 60% of the fuels used in bus transport in 2013 compared to approximately 10% in 2009.

There is no direct correlation between population density or bus transport volume and the share of renewable fuels in the bus fleet. Instead, political will, strategic planning and policies to promote public transport explain the large differences in renewables deployment among Swedish municipalities. Procurement requirements for public transport services, and the cooperation of Public Transport Authorities (PTAs) together with transport operators have also been decisive. Biodiesel has been the preferred fuel while increasing deployment of renewable fuels in buses, especially in scarcely populated regions, not least due to its compatibility with traditional diesel engines. The use of biogas is increasing in line with incentives at local and national level. The deployment of electricity in buses is only found in city traffic.

A survey among experts in public transport indicated that electricity is likely to receive increasing attention and become more attractive as infrastructure and cost barriers are addressed. Environmental aspects such as emission reduction potential and energy efficiency are a priority when choosing fuels, together with infrastructure needs and fuel availability. While the adoption of renewable fuels has been rapid and impressive, and emissions per vehicle kilometer have decreased 43% on average between 2007 and 2014, energy efficiency has remained constant since 2007, despite of being a priority when choosing fuels. Lower fuel consumption and higher passenger rates are necessary to reduce trip costs with public transport and guarantee its attractiveness to the public. Meanwhile, energy is only one part of the total cost structure for public transport. In the near future, other factors are likely to become more challenging such as the provision of related infrastructure and salary costs in the sector. Enhancing the role of public transport is subject to solutions for these problems. There is still work to do, but Sweden is showing that the transition to a fossil-free bus transport is indeed possible. These experiences provide lessons that should be shared internationally, and shall contribute to the transformation of transport systems towards sustainability.

Project Objectives

The purpose of this project was to implement a comparative analysis of renewable fuel options and strategies in the 21 Swedish counties with an eye to construct a successful and replicable strategy for a fossil free public transport. The project will:

  1. map the current status of renewable fuels adoption in bus fleets of different regions in Sweden;
  2. identify successful factors that effectively led to an increase in biofuel use in the bus fleet;
  3. showcase Swedish solutions for a sustainable public bus fleet replicable in Sweden and abroad.

The results of the project are useful for decision support in Swedish authorities, municipalities, and transport companies, sharing knowledge acquired in successful cases. At present, the mapping of current status of biofuels policies and use in buses has only been done at a very basic level. The project showcases the Swedish public transport experiences, and will therefore also serve to display Swedish sustainable public transport experiences abroad. 

The project was funded by f3-The Swedish Knowledge Centre for Renewable Transportation Fuels and KTH.

Project leader:

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