Moving to biogas saves Kalmar money

When Kalmar County invited tenders for operating public transport, biogas was the obvious preferred option. “Our starting point was that we believed it to be best for the county,” says Ulf Nilsson, chairman of the Kalmar Regional Association.

Biogasbus on tour in Kalmar

Researchers and commercial partners from the Biogas Research Center are taking a biogas-investigation journey through southern Sweden. They are meeting representatives for the Regional Association in Kalmar County and other stakeholders in biogas at a miniconference.

Mats Eklund, Professor LiUMats Eklund, Professor LiU Photo credit: Monica WestmanMats Eklund is professor at LiU and director of the Swedish Biogas Research Center. He is impressed by what Kalmar has achieved:

“We can see here what is possible when we take a comprehensive view. Everybody wins: the environment, the commercial world, the agricultural sector and the people living in the municipality. National politicians must develop their ability to see things in context, and Kalmar can act as a showroom for biogas development. In the overall picture, it’s not possible to set one against the other, electricity against biogas. Both are necessary. At the moment, one is seen as competitor to the other, instead of solving problems,” he says.

Ulf Nilsson, chairman of the Kalmar Region states:

Ulf Nilsson, chairman of the Kalmar Regional AssociationUlf Nilsson, chairman of the Kalmar Regional Association Photo credit: Monica Westman“There are 10,000 cows on Öland; we have a large forestry industry; and we have a green sector that is important to us and that we want to develop,” explains Ulf Nilsson, who is also chairman of the public transport industry organisation, the Swedish Public Transport Association – Svensk Kollektivtrafik.

Carolina Gunnarsson, who leads the work with sustainability and communication in the region, gives further details:

Fossil-free region

“It is our goal to become a fossil-free region by 2030. At the moment, it is only the transport sector remaining, and all journeys paid for by the county will be climate-neutral as early as 2020. Biogas is the preferred option for us, but it has been challenging to get production, distribution and marketing in place all at the same time,” she says.

The principal line followed in the procurement process was that transport should be completely fossil-free, with biogas as preferred option. Transport along the stretches of Road E22, including stretches on the island of Öland, all had the use of biogas as a requirement. Otherwise, the procurement was assessed on the basis of lowest price. A total of 400 vehicles were to be procured at a value of around SEK five billion, to be used for traffic for 10 years. The vehicles were to include express buses, country buses, traffic in built-up areas and school buses. Service traffic was also included to a certain degree. It was expected that the environmental profile would increase the cost of the traffic by 3-4%.
Biogas the first choice in KalmarKrister Thulin, Ulf Nilsson, David Lindquist, Karl-Johan Bodell and Carolina Gunnarsson. Photo credit: Monica Westman
“The current calculations, however, suggest that costs have been actually lowered by about 2%,” says Karl-Johan Bodell, managing director of Kalmar Länstrafik.

Thirty operators submitted bids: 19 of them were assigned routes. It became clear that the region-based companies submitted the best tenders – companies from, for example, Vimmerby, Nybro and Kalmar.

“The big dragons took part in the procurement, but were not awarded any routes,” says Karl-Johan Bodell.
And the model we used was sufficiently simple that no-one has appealed against the decisions.

First biogas-fuelled express buses

Buses in municipalities in internal parts of Småland where biogas is not available will run on hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO). In order for this to work, the municipalities are planning to establish depots and refuelling stations: for biogas in Kalmar, Mörbylånga, Mönsterås, Oskarshamn and Västervik; and for HVO in Borgholm, Torsås, Nybro, Emmaboda, Högsby, Hultsfred and Vimmerby.

The buses are already available.
“Scania benefits most from our procurement,” Ulf Nilsson tells us.
Discussion about biogas in KalmarDiscussion about biogas in Kalmar Photo credit: Roozbeh Feiz
David Lindquist, managing director for one of the operating companies, Flexbuss, admits that he was initially sceptical to running buses on biogas. Following consultation with the county traffic service, however, he now has 81 new buses in the fleet: 35 run on biogas and 46 on HVO.

“We are the first to use biogas-fuelled express buses in scheduled traffic,” says David.

The Flexbuss buses have been included in the procurement as a “transport function”, which means that the buses are sold together with service and maintenance for ten years.
“It’s not usual for us to sell a function, but we are actually quite happy to do so. We have better control over the service, and how the buses function in practice,” says Krister Thulin, head of Scania’s bus market sector.

New generation of engines

Scania offers vehicles for all types of fuel, but Krister Thulin wants to emphasise the advantages of biogas.

“There are large differences between different generations of engine. Scania’s new gas engine can nearly compete with diesel engines: it has higher torque and is significantly more energy-efficient. We satisfy the Euro 6 standard with good margins. The fuel is locally produced and the biogas-fuelled buses have essentially zero emissions of carbon dioxide per person-kilometre,” he says.

The 90 Scania buses that have been sold to Kalmar County, to Flexbuss and Bergkvarabuss, are expected to be able to cover approximately 650 kilometres on one tank of fuel.

“We don’t want to give an exact figure for the consumption: eco-driving, for example, affects this to a considerable degree. But we now have so many buses in operation that we can obtain clear results from measurements,” says Krister Thulin.

The fact that the biogas is locally produced contributes to the development of agriculture in Kalmar County, as described in the article about More Biogas (Profitable collaboration). At this time, 130 GWh will be upgraded in the county to vehicle fuel, and the maximum possible is 150 GWh.

“Sales in the market are the limiting sector at the moment,” says Carolina Gunnarsson.

In Kalmar County, it is accepted without question that collaboration and a comprehensive overview are the only way forwards.

“There are, however, conflicting goals, and we must discuss these with the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation,” Carolina Gunnarsson concludes.


The Kalmar County procurement

Fundamental conditions
Completely fossil-free, with biogas to be the principal direction
Personnel to be employed under conditions comparable to those of collective agreements
Protection for whistle-blowers to cover all personnel
When operating commissions with more than five vehicles are to be changed, regulations for the transfer of personnel are to be applied.
100% renewable fuels
All of the above requirements have been satisfied.
Bonuses granted for high quality and increased passenger volumes
The possibility to use vehicles used as school buses for other routes
Advantages for passengers
Charging points at each double seat
Defibrillators available on all buses
WiFi on all vehicles with a capacity greater than eight passengers
Child seats in express buses used in the region
Greater traffic volumes on all routes
Better traffic information on screens in the buses

Photo from Kalmar on top: Mats Eklund

Biogas tour, 10 stops in 3 days

National research center

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