(QCOSTARICA) The first three electric buses that will serve the country have already arrived and starting in November will begin service on three routes in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), under a pilot program.
The units, donated by the Government of Germany, will operate for four months on each route, first on the San José-Desamparados route, then they will move to the San José -Tres Ríos route, in Cartago, and lastly they will be used by passengers who travel between San José and Alajuela.
Claus Kruse, director of the MiTransporte project, explained that among the changes that users will perceive is that the buses are more comfortable, less noise because they do not have an internal combustion engine, a lower step to board, and minimal vibration during the ride.
The new units also have more spacious seats and USB ports to charge the cell phone.
“There are many differences, we have taken care that the material is antiallergic, comfortable, with all the safety features, more spaces for a wheelchair, a bus as it is used in any European city,” added Kruse.
The units will have a capacity for 81 passengers (including standing, though the Ministry of Health has mandated during the national emergency all passengers must be seated).
The pilot program
According to Kruse, the three bus companies that were selected to carry out the pilot program had to undergo several selection processes.
Two buses will be lent to them to provide services on the routes, while the third unit will remain as a backup in the event of a breakdown, crash or other unforeseen event and mean used as a test in other routes with different topography, as well for training with drivers and mechanics.
The companies, while operating the electric buses, must take out of service the same number of combustion-powered buses out of circulation.
The companies will also be responsible for the cost of keeping the units clean, inside and out.
“It is expected that they will charge at night, if the cost of the electricity were higher than the diesel buses would consume, the difference would be assumed by the program, the intention is that it operates without generating cost to the bus company,” explained Kruse .
The electric buses can travel up to 250 kilometers on a single charge. The project manager said the chosen routes cover about 200 km a day.
After one year, when the three periods in which the units will be on each route are completed, they will be removed to begin analyzing the data generated, so that operators and the transport system can define the route map that it will be more convenient in the framework of the decarbonization plan.
In addition to the three units donated by Germany, 12 bus companies were expected to acquire 12 additional units by the end of the year.
However, due to the pandemic, this initiative was put on hold, as bus companies have seen their income reduced by up to 80%.
Each of these units has a cost close to US$400,000.
As part of the initiative, the Government fo Costa Rica had offered the bus companies to provide charging stations and flat rates.
In addition, they would have the technical support of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) and the National Learning Institute (INA) both in the installation of the charging stations and in the maintenance of the units.
Meanwhile, the Regulatory Authority of Public Services (Aresep), had pending the definition of the electric recharge rate in the facilities of the bus companies.