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E-buses fail in the cold

The icy temperatures in Berlin are causing problems for the e-buses. These have increasingly caved in to the cold in recent days, even though the batteries were supposed to withstand the cold according to the manufacturer. The buses had to be replaced by diesel buses.

The cold has northern Germany firmly in its grip. The electric buses of the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) are also suffering. A whole 23 of them broke down last Monday during the journey and had to be replaced by other buses, often combustion engines. The batteries of the buses, which had previously been charged as usual, simply gave out.

Even in normal temperatures, the BVG's e-buses are only used on short routes in the city centre, as the range is not sufficient for longer journeys through the capital. At minus 10 degrees, the buses are supposed to have a range of 130 kilometres. Drivers and passengers therefore often experienced nasty surprises when the buses' batteries ran out halfway through the journey.

The batteries of e-buses and cars do indeed suffer from the cold temperatures. Experts say the range can be reduced by as much as 30% in the cold. Since the electricity is also used to heat the interior of the vehicles, not only is the capacity of the batteries affected, but more energy is consumed than in summer. In addition, the charging time of the vehicles is extended in winter.

BVG is now in talks with the manufacturer of the buses to find a solution. It is surprising, however, that the Berlin buses break down at the first snow, when electric buses have been on the road for years without any problems in Scandinavian countries like Norway, for example. So the technology should actually be able to cope with somewhat rougher conditions on the roads. Perhaps the manufacturers simply did not expect that it could snow in Germany or that the BVG would not plan for the extended charging time.

Whether the bad experience will now set BVG back further in its conversion to e-buses remains to be seen. There are still only 137 electric buses in Berlin. This compares to about 1400 diesel buses that pollute the streets of the capital.

So there will be no green mobility in Berlin.