Published from the magazine Československý Dopravák No. 5/2017 with the kind permission of the editor-in-chief Mr. Libor Hinčica.

Hradec Králové to increase the share of electric transport in the city

The Transport Company of Hradec Králové (hereinafter referred to as DPmHK) should become the domestic leader in the number of electric buses deployed in public transport next year. It will push Třinec, which has so far led with 10 vehicles, from the front and will also leapfrog Prague, which should buy 14 vehicles next year. Next year, 20 electric buses should appear in Hradec Králové, which will complement the existing fleet of these vehicles that the carrier has purchased in the past. In addition, trolleybus operation will be extended and, for the first time, trolleybuses with batteries, which are usually called partial trolleybuses in this configuration, will also be deployed.

Current fleet of electric buses in Hradec Králové

The first purchases of electric buses for Hradec Králové's public transport took place in 2013–16, when the carrier first leased the vehicles and then bought them under more favourable conditions. These were always electric buses, which were originally used by manufacturers for testing purposes. The first SOR EBN 9.5 was acquired by DPmHK in September 2013. At that time, it was not only the first electric bus from SOR in this length category, but also the first of the EBN series cars to use a facelift of the front and rear faces according to the design of doc. Ing. arch. The electric bus was acquired in Hradec Králové with registration number 173 and after testing, DP bought it in April 2014. The vehicle was originally deployed on weekdays in a divided shift, during which it alternated several lines (5, 6, 12, 13, 16), on Saturdays the car was usually dispatched to line no. 18 or 25, where it otherwise appeared primarily on Sundays. In connection with the introduction of the so-called 'green card'. Green line From 4.9.2017, which is a special line serving the central part of the city, the electric bus was transferred to this line on weekdays.

The only Škoda Perun HE (Škoda 26 BB HE) in the service of the DP of Hradec Králové. The carrier put it into operation in October 2014 and originally had it only leased. © DPmHK

The second electric bus was supplied to Hradec Králové by Škoda Electric. It was a car with the type designation Škoda 26 BB HE, otherwise known under the trade name Škoda Perun HE. This prototype was manufactured in the autumn of 2014 and served for a number of demonstration rides of the manufacturer, after which it was leased in October 2014 to the DP of the City of Hradec Králové, which put the electric bus into operation under reg. no. 174 and in December 2015 bought it for residual value. The electric bus is deployed all week round on line number 25, which has a sufficiently low mileage to handle the entire shift. The range of the prototype electric bus Škoda Perun HP is only between 105–130 km. So far, the last electric bus appeared in Hradec Králové in February 2015, and it was a SOR vehicle, but this time in the extended SOR EBN 11 variant. Again, it was a prototype that first served the manufacturer for presentation purposes (it appeared, for example, at the IAA trade fairs in Hannover and at Czechbus in Prague). As in previous cases, the carrier first leased the vehicle, which received reg. no. 175, and took ownership of it at the beginning of 2016. The car originally appeared on lines 12, 13, 17, 18 and 28 in a split order (shaker), with a mileage usually ranging from 132 to 149 km. In 2016, the car was equipped with technology for charging from a fast-charging stand, which was installed in the area of the Public Transport Terminal. This made it possible to deploy the electric bus on the all-day course of line 13 on Saturday and Sunday on line no. 22 and significantly extend its range to up to 290 km. Similarly, DP would like to rebuild the SOR EBN 9.5, so that the range of this vehicle could be extended. So far, the fast charging mode has been perceived as a test mode, and the configuration used has already revealed some pitfalls of the project. For example, the high demands on the accuracy of vehicle placement when connecting the robotic arm (about 20 cm in front of and behind the stand), which in the beginning led to drivers having to place the vehicle at the stand repeatedly. It is also interesting to have an operational complication in the form of highly set sensitivity of the system, when even rocking the vehicle when a driver whose weight exceeds the average values disconnects the vehicle

20 new electric buses

The acquisition of a larger fleet of electric buses has been discussed in Hradec Králové for a long time. As part of the preparation of the roofing of the bus parking area on the depot premises, the project has already included the construction of connections for the possibility of charging up to 25 electric buses in the so-called slow charging mode during the night shutdown of vehicles. This roof was built during 2015. At the same time, the DP completed and adopted a project entitled "Clean Transport Strategy 2015–2020", which can be considered as the main document in the planning of further development of public transport in the city. Among the basic objectives, an increase in the share of environmentally clean transport in the total volume of annual kilometres driven by public transport vehicles was also mentioned, and the related reduction in the volume of exhaust gases of public transport vehicles.

Emissions from transport were to be reduced and electric transport was to be expanded in two ways – one of which was the acquisition of a larger number of new electric buses with a length of 11 to 12 m. Their number was eventually set at 20 pieces. Another means was to strengthen the role of trolleybus transport, both by partially expanding their network, but especially by purchasing so-called partial trolleybuses, which can travel part of their route on batteries.

However, none of these projects would be possible without subsidy titles, because especially electric buses still have a very high value on the market, while carriers must (or at least should) take into account the fact that it will be necessary to replace the batteries in the vehicles after a certain period of time (which represents a considerable investment – approximately CZK 2 million).

However, the EU subsidy policy, together with the set priority axes of the state, plays into the use of subsidies for similar projects in our country. On 21 January 2016, the Ministry of Regional Development announced a 20th round call, entitled "Low-emission and zero-emission vehicles", to submit applications for support from the Integrated Regional Operational Programme (IROP; specific objective 1.2 – Increasing the share of sustainable forms of transport). Due to the set rules, the Transport Company of Hradec Králové has prepared two separate fleet renewal projects entitled "Acquisition of emission-free vehicles for the purposes of public transport" and "Acquisition of electric buses and trolleybuses with auxiliary drive for the purposes of public transport in Hradec Králové".

In the second half of the 90s, Hradec Králové significantly modernized its fleet with low-floor vehicles. In trolleybuses he bet on the type 21 Tr, for buses on the Karosa-Renault model. It is these buses that should be discontinued in connection with the delivery of new electric buses and trolleybuses. © Libor Hinčica 2014

The Škoda 14 Tr ev trolleybus No. 08 was retained by DPmHK as a driving school vehicle after its decommissioning, later it was earmarked as a historical vehicle. In the past, this vehicle was used to tow a diesel generator on the section of line No. 1 without overhead contact lines. The aggregate has also been preserved to this day. © Libor Hinčica 2011

Within the first of the above-mentioned projects, the carrier applied for a subsidy of up to 85% for a total of 15 electric buses, the second project then counted on 5 electric buses and 3 partial trolleybuses, while the maximum subsidy was also 85%. Both grant applications were submitted by DPMHK on 13.6.2016 and was ultimately successful with both – the decision on the allocation of subsidies (in both cases in the maximum amount) was issued on 6.3.2017.

On 1 September 2016, the Ministry of Regional Development announced another call entitled "Sustainable Transport – ITI Integrated Projects". In this case, too, it was a support from the IROP program with the same specific objective, but in this case only selected metropolitan areas of national importance could draw the money. This is also the origin of the abbreviation ITI in the name of the call, under which the English words Integrated Territorial Investments are hidden. In this case, Hradec Králové was included in the so-called Freedom of Movement. Hradecko-Pardubice agglomeration and DPmHK prepared a project that counted on the delivery of 6 partial trolleybuses. The project plan was submitted to the ITI Steering Committee on 31.10.2016 and the statement of this committee on compliance with ITI rules followed on 22.11.2016. In this case, however, subsidies can be formally applied for only after the selection of the vehicle supplier, which means that this process is currently (as of 15.12.2017) in progress. However, with regard to the previous confirmation of compliance, there is basically no reason why the Hradec Králové DT should not obtain the funds (again in the amount of 85% of the purchase price of the vehicles). It can therefore be concluded that the carrier was successful with all three of its projects. In total, the EU is to support the purchase of 20 electric buses (within two separate IROP projects 15 + 5 units) and 9 partial trolleybuses (3 under one of the IROP projects and 6 thanks to the ITI project).

Although the purchase of vehicles was part of various projects, this did not prevent the preparation of a tender so that all electric buses could be demanded in one competition. The public tender for their purchase was announced on 21 March 2017 and represented the largest one-off demand for electric buses in the whole of the former Czechoslovakia to date. Two bidders were interested in the tender – Škoda Electric and SOR Libchavy – and although due to additional questions the deadline for submitting bids had to be extended (until 11.7.2017), only one was submitted from SOR Libchavy, which applied with its new SOR NS 12 electric model.

The test charging stand at the public transport terminal in Hradec Králové impresses with its very unconventional design. At the charger there is a car SOR EBN 11, which can be used by experience as the only one. © DPmHK

Among the evaluation criteria, price had the highest weight (70%), followed by the warranty period for the entire vehicle (20%) and guaranteed battery life (10%). The originally estimated value of the entire contract was CZK 257.5 million. However, this amount did not include only the vehicles themselves, but also the supply of 20 stands for slow charging (at least in the range of 40 to 150 A), which will be located in the bus part of the depot, and three charging stations with the possibility of regulating the charging current from 40 A to at least 200 A. Two of these charging stations (referred to as fast-charging stations in the tender procedure) are intended for the Terminal of Public Transport stops (here it should be possible to charge two vehicles at the same time) and Slezské předměstí- Cihelna (here it is planned to charge even three vehicles at once). Both of these stations are expected to be charged through a five-pole special pantograph installed on vehicles, which will have an inverted V-shaped terminal, while a skid-in will be installed on special booms as a contact counterpart that directs the pantograph to the contact point, in the length of several meters (this will eliminate the problems with absolutely accurate centering of vehicles, which manifested themselves at the test stand at the Public Transport Terminal). The third station demanded should also allow charging with higher charging currents, but not via a pantograph, but via cable. This station is to be located in the depot. The final sum for the described charging stations and 20 electric buses eventually amounted to CZK 246 million. CZK without VAT. It should be noted that the subsidy from the EU (under both IROP projects) is intended only to cover the amount for the purchase of electric buses (i.e. CZK 234 million 850 thousand excluding VAT from the total value) and the rest of the costs of acquiring charging stations and stands must be paid by the carrier from its own funds.

Based on the contract, the electric buses are to be delivered during June 2018 (10 units) and September 2018 (the remaining 10 units). The contract itself was signed on 7.9.2017, and published in the contract register on 19.9.2017.

The deployment of the new electric buses is planned for operation on a total of 7 Hradec public transport lines, specifically No. 5, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17 and 19. Only two of them, however, will have all courses occupied by electric buses, namely no. 12 (Březhrad – Slezské Předměstí-cihelna – KINGSPAN) and 14 (Jungmannova – Slezské Předměstí-cihelna – Rusecká). Charging of electric buses will be designed in such a way that after minor adjustments are made, it is possible to combine the mandatory breaks and the time needed for charging to the maximum extent possible by legislation. Of course, the energy issue must also be addressed. In the case of the DP depot, a new energy system had to be created for powering electric buses, when a separate primary supply was brought in and a transformer station was built. With the help of an inverter, however, this station creates one energy unit with the trolley network in the DP area. It is assumed that electric buses will be charged in the depot only during the night by so-called slow charging. For all cases, however, there will also be a station for higher charging currents (about 200 A). In the case of charging stations in Slezské Předměstí (Cihelna), a new substation will have to be built, which will also serve to strengthen the power supply of the trolleybus network. At the Public Transport Terminal, the reserve of the existing substation is sufficient, so large investments do not have to take place here.

The SOR NS 12 electric buses that DPmHK is expected to receive are intended to correspond to the initial model presented at the IAA in Hanover in 2016. These will be one of the first serial pieces of the new bus series that SOR will hand over to the customer. The cars should offer a capacity of 80 passengers (of which 34 are seated) and passengers can also look forward to air conditioning in the salon. They are to be equipped with nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) batteries, for which the manufacturer has provided a 66-month warranty. The capacity of the electrical energy stored in the batteries will be 242 kWh, which alone for a 12 m vehicle is enough for a range of about 200 km without the need for charging (of course, depending on the surrounding conditions).

The new vehicles in the fleet will replace the oldest diesel buses, specifically 20 vehicles meeting the EURO II emission standard. Among them will be low-floor buses Karosa-Renault, other types of vehicles from the fleet of DPmHK, a.s. are already in the EURO III standard and above.

9 partial trolleybuses

As we have already revealed, DPmHK managed to secure subsidies not only for the purchase of electric buses, but also for the so-called partial trolleybuses, in a total of 9 pieces. Although even in this case the purchase is the subject of two different EU projects (IROP and ITI), it was again possible to launch only one tender for the entire supply. Before we look at the competition itself, let's recall how the idea of buying these vehicles actually came to Hradec Králové.

Vehicle 21 Tr reg. no. 50 was replaced by a trolleybus Škoda 30 Tr with a diesel generator, which, however, is unconventionally located above (from the photographer's point of view) the left wheelset. Instead of a window, there is a black lacquered sheet metal. © Daniel Ditrych 2012

Plan of the newly planned trolleybus line to the terminus Pod Strání. © DPmHK

As early as 1984, Škoda Ostrov, as the monopoly manufacturer of trolleybuses in Czechoslovakia, asked DP in Hradec Králové about its interest in the possible supply of dual-drive vehicles in combination with a classic connection to the traction network and batteries that would be installed in the vehicle. However, DPmHK did not answer Škoda's inquiry at all (as did most domestic DPs) and the company finally stopped its development of the "first partial trolleybus" in 1985. Only a few years later, however, DP had to deal with the idea of a trolleybus with a spare power source himself. The reason was the fact that for technical reasons, such as the laying of networks in pavements, where it was necessary to place the newly built traction masts, it turned out unrealistic to extend the trolleybus line from Nový Hradec Králové to the adjacent village of Kluky, as planned since the late 80s. Bus line No. 20, which went to Kluky, traveled most of its route under the trolley, so they were looking for ways to avoid such traffic. In cooperation with the then repair service of Czech Railways (Hradec Králové plant), a project of the so-called auxiliary diesel generator was created, which was placed on a separate trailer. The engine was used as the power unit, which at that time was commonly found in tractors of the Brno Zetor. The wheelchair would be designed to be connected to Škoda 14 Tr trolleybuses, which had to be specially modified for this purpose. These modifications concerned two wagons reg. no. 08 and 28, which actually from 4.7.1994 began to serve Kluky as extended connections of line number 1 (only one car was always in operation). In January 2001, a prototype of the Škoda 21 Tr ACI trolleybus (from 1998) was introduced, which already had a diesel generator directly installed. This vehicle made it possible to replace one of the Škoda 14 Tr trolleybuses, the other remained as a backup, of course with a "wheelchair" that bore reg. no. 60. In 2012, two Škoda 30 Tr trolleybuses were delivered to DPmHK, which were also equipped with a diesel generator (unconventionally designed in the tower above the rear axle). New cars No. 17 and 18 made it possible to phase out the prototype car Škoda 21 Tr ACI reg. no. 50 and the outdated Škoda 14 Tr reg. no. 08. However, both of them can still be seen in Hradec Králové and form (including the diesel generator-trolley reg. no. 60) the basis of the collection of museum vehicles of the DP. In addition to line number 1 to Kluky, Škoda 30 Tr trolleybuses equipped with a diesel generator are now also deployed on line no. 7 to Malšovice, on whose route there is also a section that is serviced at regular intervals without a trolley line. In the future, it is also possible to deploy partial trolleybuses on both of these lines, but primarily their location should be elsewhere.

Originally, it was assumed that a new trolleybus line could be built from the Koruna junction to the Jungmanova terminus (including the loop). Partial trolleybuses (a total of 10 were to be bought) were to use this new section, but at the same time they were to continue at both ends (always by about 2 km) to the outskirts of Březhrad on one side and along Bieblova Street to the terminus Cihelna in Slezské Předměstí on the other. Trolleybuses would thus replace buses of line 12 along their entire route. However, it turned out that if partial trolleybuses were used, Březhrad would have to be served in a different way. The city administration did not support the alternative and the intention to build within the existing EU projects was abandoned. Line 12, as the attentive reader will know, will still be served by electric vehicles, because it was ultimately chosen as the one to be used by electric buses. Another line was chosen for partial trolleybuses, namely number 27 (KINGSPAN – Slezské Předměstí-Cihelna – Pod Strání).

"Already in 1984, Škoda Ostrov, as the monopoly manufacturer of trolleybuses in Czechoslovakia, asked DP in Hradec Králové about its interest in possible deliveries of dual-drive vehicles."

On line no. 27 there is a daily expedition of 6 partial trolleybuses. From the terminus Cihelna (the section for connections going to and from the terminus KINGSPAN will be solved by line no. 23) trolleybuses will go about 5 km under the trolley line, then about 2.4 km on batteries to the terminus Pod Strání, where the construction of a part of the trolley line connecting the terminus Pod Strání with Brněnská street is underway with the aim of transferring part of the capacity of trolleybuses from the Nový Hradec Králové terminus, and after turning back again 2.4 km on the battery and 5 km under the trolley. This should be enough to charge the batteries. Trolleybuses with a length of 12 m were demanded for operation, although today there are articulated buses on line No. 27. The Transport Company of the City of Hradec Králové did not want articulated partial trolleybuses (which are purchased, for example, by České Budějovice) on the grounds that there is little operational experience with vehicles of this type and their capacity is fully utilized only at peak transport demand. However, this does not alter the fact that the replacement of articulated vehicles by solo trolleybuses on line 27 would objectively bring about a deterioration in service for passengers. Therefore, it will be necessary to reinforce the transport to the area of Pod Strání in an alternative way. Trolleybuses from lines 1 and 2 should serve this purpose, which should be transferred here after the completion of the planned new trolleybus line, which will lead to the terminus Pod Strání, from Brněnská Street along Palachova and Milady Horákové Streets. The length of the overhead contact line on this section will be (one-way) 860 m, and its power supply should be provided by the existing Nový Hradec Králové substation. The routing of trolleybuses along Palachova and Milady Horákové streets will not affect the length of the section that partial trolleybuses on line no. 27 will pass outside the trolley in the future, due to the fact that this line is brought to the terminus Pod Strání along Benešova Avenue. A building permit has already been issued for the new trolleybus line and it is expected that the section will be built in the second quarter of 2018. The total cost is estimated at EUR 18.5 million. CZK (the costs of replacing public lighting are also included), and even in this case, the carrier would like to obtain a subsidy from the EU (from the ITI program) for the expansion of the infrastructure, which could cover up to 85% of the costs.

Electric bus SOR NS 12 electric for Hradec Králové on visualization from the workshop of doc. Ing. arch. © DPmHK

Rear view of the possible colour solution of the SOR NS 12 electric electric bus for the DP of Hradec Králové. © DPmHK

In addition to line number 27, partial trolleybuses should also appear on another line that should serve the Plachta housing estate. There is currently no trolleybus or bus line in this session, so it will be an extension of the offer for passengers. The new line should run on the route Sídliště Plachta – Brněnská třída – Komenského Street – Československé armády Street – Komenského Street – Brněnská – Sídliště Plachta. Battery-powered trolleybuses will leave the housing estate and will have to rely on their energy on a 1.5 km long section. This will be followed by a 6 km section under the trolley before it will be necessary to serve the end section to Sídliště Plachta. As in the case of line 27, the ratio of completion of 70% of the route under the overhead contact line and 30% of the route outside it will be maintained. Three vehicles should serve the line to the Plachta housing estate every day. In the event that all partial trolleybuses are dispatched to line No. 27 and the new line to the Plachta housing estate, there will be no operational backup of these vehicles, so in case of maintenance or defects, a diesel bus will have to step in.

The tender for the purchase of new trolleybuses was announced on 24.2.2017. However, the deadline for submitting bids was considerably extended and in the end only one was submitted on 19.7.2017, from Škoda Electric. For the first time, it offered partial trolleybuses manufactured in cooperation with SOR Libchavy (all previously delivered vehicles for the Czech Republic were manufactured using the bodies of the Polish Solaris). Surprisingly, however, no offer was submitted for trolleybuses that would use the new solution of the SOR NS series, but an even older version with a modified body of SOR NB 12 CITY buses, which corresponds to the Škoda 30 Tr type in Škoda branding. At first glance, the new trolleybuses will be indistinguishable for the layman from the vehicles that have been running in Hradec Králové since 2011 (DPmHK has a total of 18 Škoda 30 Tr trolleybuses at its disposal, two of them with a diesel generator). The contract with the manufacturer was finally signed on 21.9.2017 and subsequently published in the contract register on 22.9.2017.

Within the evaluation criteria, the weights were allocated in the same way as in the electric bus contract (70% price, 20% warranty period for the whole vehicle, 10% battery warranty). The total value of the contract in this case is CZK 120.6 million, i.e. CZK 13.4 million. CZK per car (excl. VAT). It must be said that DPmHK originally expected that partial trolleybuses would be cheaper and the original estimated value of the contract was only CZK 112.5 million. CZK, i.e. CZK 900,000 less per vehicle (and CZK 8.1 million overall). The delivery of the first three vehicles should take place in July 2018, and these trolleybuses should be deployed on the line to the Plachta housing estate. The remaining vehicles for servicing line 27 are to be delivered in September 2018.

At present, there are 3 electric buses in Hradec Králové, of which 2 are of the SOR brand. In the picture we can see the SOR EBN 11 on 6 May 2015 leaving the public transport terminal, which is – as well as the modified design of the electric bus – the work of doc. Ing. arch. © DPmHK

Trolleybuses should offer 27 seats and 53 standing and, as with electric buses, they should not lack air conditioning for passengers. Batteries should be located at the rear of trolleybuses. These should be LTO (lithium-titanate-oxxid) cells with an electrical capacity of 42.1 kWh. The purchase of the new vehicles will increase the current number of trolleybuses to 40 with regard to the fact that they are to occupy two new routes. On the contrary, 6 buses are to be scrapped. Again, these should be the oldest vehicles that meet the EURO II standard, i.e. Karosa-Renault Citybus 12M from 1996–2001. This should close the chapter in the history of these buses in Hradec Králové, where Citybuses have left an indelible mark during more than 20 years of operation. In their time, they were a symbol of the arrival of a new era of modern public transport in the city, now with new electric buses and partial trolleybuses begins another stage of the history of public transport in this former dowry town.

Let us add that at present, the share of electric transport in the city represents over 30% of all public transport outputs. After the completion of all projects (purchase of electric buses, partial trolleybuses and completion of the line to the final Pod Strání), the share of vehicles powered by electricity should increase to 50%. Other projects for the expansion of trolleybuses (whether classic or partial) or electric buses are currently not in reserve for DP.

Finally, let us add that in addition to new electric buses and trolleybuses, the Hradec Králové Public Transport Company also announced a tender for the supply of new diesel buses with a length of 12 m, but only in the number of 3 pieces. The tender was announced at the end of July 2017 and the contract was concluded on 18 October 2017. Within the evaluation criteria, the price had the highest weight (80%), while the warranty for the whole vehicle accounted for a smaller part (20%). The original estimated value of the contract was CZK 16.5 million. CZK without VAT, but the final amount is slightly lower and amounts to CZK 15.87 million. Two manufacturers submitted bids for the tender, the winner was Iveco Czech Republic with the Urbanway 12m model. Diesel buses should be handed over from operation during 2018.

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