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Hungary’s big green public transport overhaul

The Hungarian Government launched the Green Bus Programme in 2019 as a cornerstone of its Climate and Environmental Protection Action Plan, reallocating 100 million euros from its CO2 quota revenues to subsidise modern, sustainable and environment-friendly public transportation to the rural settlements with over 25,000 inhabitants. The Programme showcases our commitment in the fight against global warming while boosting Hungarian bus manufacturing capabilities and fueling innovation. 

The initiative was welcomed by decision-makers all over the country, stating they are ready to do their share in reaching the climate-neutrality by 2050, the target set by the Council of the European Union and accepted by the Hungarian Government. They agreed that reaching this goal requires the modernisation of bus fleets, but argued that before any step can be taken, crucial data is needed.

Supervised by the Ministry for Innovation and Technology this undertaking employs a ground-up approach by being spearheaded by the Green Bus Pilot-Project, the goal of which is to thoroughly explore the ways and means of adapting electric buses and the installation of the required infrastructure.

The Project Office is obliged to provide electric buses for demonstration purposes in 8 different locations for at least one month. During the demonstration, the buses must fulfil several objectives, such as display of technology, driving technique, transport operation planning and communication. 

This year three on-location demonstration pilot-projects were launched: Debrecen, Békéscsaba and Nyíregyháza. Our experience so far is very positive, the electric buses provided by our qualified partners fulfilled the operational requirements, with one charge they could remain in service all day, running around 200 kilometres each day. 

Green Bus in Debrecen.

Next year we intend to continue the demonstrations, testing more buses and charging possibilities. Nevertheless, there will be one additional and very unique location. The most important climate project in Hungary currently is the phasing out of the Mátra power plant. As the transformation begins, the Green Bus Project-Office joins these efforts by providing an electric test bus to the transportation of workers from the nearby settlements, raising awareness and promoting that the polluting ways of the old can be overcome by the new ways of green.

The knowledge gathered by the Green Bus Demonstrations Projects will ultimately lay the foundation for the ten-year-long Green Bus Programme, however, we can see now that not the operation of the electric buses will cause challenges but the installation of the required charging infrastructure. The electric grids in the bus depots were not designed for charging multiple buses simultaneously. Fortunately, the government subsidy in a certain measure can also be used for infrastructure-related expenses, this way the local power network can be upgraded for the necessary electrical output.

In order to phase out buses that are doing the most harm to the environment first, the Project Office designed a system in which the assistance intensity provided to municipalities and service providers correlate with the emission standard of the bus they intend to replace. It must be taken into account that the current price of an electric bus is twice of a regular combustion drive one’s, however, we expect it to drop over time and the support intensity is going to decrease accordingly.  

The first call for proposals has been announced recently and out of the 100 million euros overall budget 11,7 million euros is available for the year 2020 and 2021. We expect numerous applications and as a result a significant increase in the number of electric buses entering service over the next years.

Green transportation is our shared responsibility, as it is in our shared interest to create livable and sustainable cities. For this reason, apart from the subsidy system to promote the procurement of electric buses, several other methods are being called to action to achieve this goal. 

It is a cliché, but true nonetheless, that drastic times call for drastic measures, from 2022 on, only electric buses will be subsidised to be allowed to put into service.

Currently, there are 2900 buses in service all over Hungary, by the end of the Green Bus Programme in 2029, we hope to replace 1300-1400 of them with e-buses. This number however can be increased by additional EU funding on top of the 100 million euros provided by the CO2 quota revenues. The launch of this Programme is overall a huge success for Hungary, the introduction of new resources created competition between bus manufacturers that fuels innovation on how to make public transport more climate-friendly, making our citizens and the environment the ultimate winner.

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