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To get a better understanding about how the two projects (Concession Haarlem-IJmond and Amstelland-Meerlanden) started, Heliox has asked Spencer Milburn, Senior Project Manager Zero Emission at Transdev Netherlands, some questions.

What is your role in the projects? I am the charging infrastructure expert for Transdev Global, and the project manager for all major charging infrastructure projects delivered for Transdev in the Netherlands.  For these projects, I have been intimately involved in the selection of locations for charging infrastructure, writing the functional specifications that form the basis for the charging infrastructure being delivered by Heliox, and will oversee the construction and installation phase of the project.

What is the time span between signing of the contract and delivery?  There is a total of nine months between contract signature and commencing operations with the first chargers, which is a very tight timeframe given the scale of this project

What are the challenges in the Amstelland-Meerlanden project, especially compared to the roll-out for the first phase chargers for this concession, delivered in 2018? The Amstelland-Meerlanden concession is typified by almost exclusively high frequency, 24/7 operations, at or approaching Bus-Rapid Transit conditions (in this region, operated under the Dutch R-Net branding).  In this project, all of those high frequency lines will be electrified. This places higher demands on the buses, not just throughout the day, but also on a 24 hour cycle, as these buses simply don’t stand still long enough to always be charged slowly at night. 

This means that whereas in the first phase of this concession, and in other concessions, coordinating fast-charging during the day was the critical point in our operations, there is now no single point in the 24 hour cycle where the availability of charging infrastructure is not critical to the continued operation of our buses.

The distances involved with this concession, and the positioning of end-points at bus stations in major population centres means that charging infrastructure at those end-points is critical to our operations.  Unnecessary trips back to our depots to charge are wasteful – they add to traffic congestion and only serve to frustrate passengers (nothing worse when waiting for the bus than seeing one coming in the distance, only to find out that it is out of service!). For the operator, it ultimately leads to us needing additional buses, drivers and infrastructure to carry out the same number of trips.  Charging infrastructure at bus stations serving an end-of-line function cannot be considered as anything other than an integral part of bus station design going forwards. 

The space in even the busiest bus stations is always there – we avoid charging during the morning and evening peak hours (that’s when more or less all our buses need to be on the road, so there is no time for charging) and bus stations are designed to handle that peak hour traffic.  Outside the peak hours, bus movements are always reduced, so there is always space available for a small number of strategically-placed chargers.

Bus batteries are also now considerably larger, but by 24/7 operations, we cannot assume that the batteries can be charged fully at night – for this project the charging strategy has been individually tailored to every single bus and every single line.  Some buses will be able to charge with 30kW at night, typical power levels up until now for depot charging, whilst others can never be charged atanything less than 150kW, or they won’t be charged quick enough for the following day’s duties. The lines between opportunity charging and depot charging are quickly becoming blurred.

How did the working relationship with Heliox start?  Here in the Netherlands, Transdev buses have been charging with Heliox chargers since 2016.  We began with the operation of 43 articulated electric buses in Eindhoven in December 2016, charged with Heliox 300kW opportunity chargers and 30kW depot chargers.  We expanded with phase one of Amstelland-Meerlanden in April 2018, and in 2020, Heliox will deliver chargers for Transdev for both phase two of Amstelland-Meerlanden, and in the neighbouring concession Haarlem-IJmond.

What is your feeling about the course of the project? For Transdev anything other than on-time delivery of this project is not an option.  We have worked closely with Heliox a number of times now, and we know that we have chosen a trusted partner for delivery of this project.

What do you value in working together with Heliox?  Heliox specialize in charging infrastructure for public transport and other heavy vehicle operations. This is considerably different to delivering chargers for cars and other light vehicles.  Choices need to be made in design, delivery, and maintenance that suit the critical points of our operations.  The chargers need to be guaranteed to last as long as the buses, if not longer.  Downtimes need to be short, and planned in a way that suits our operations.  User interfaces need to be intuitive to the driver, as every second counts at the start and end of a charging session.  Massive cost-savings can be achieved if the same chargers can be used for fast-charging of single vehicles when high power levels are needed, and slow-charging of multiple vehicles at other times.  Heliox are well-placed to deliver on this, and are continually looking to improve to better support our operations.