21.10.2020

Sustainable local transport - electric buses for Costa Rica

The electric buses arrived by ferry at the port of Caldera on Costa Rica's Pacific coast. Photo: GIZ/Diana Ramirez

They’re still plain white but soon they’ll be taking to Costa Rica’s streets in all the colours of the rainbow: in September, three electric buses arrived at Caldera Port on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast after a six-week voyage from China. The buses are being funded as part of the IKI’s ‘Mitigation actions in the transport sector’ project. This Costa Rican project is helping the country to meet its ambitious goals for mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapting to climate change.

Transport in the spotlight

Transport is a particularly high-priority sector in Costa Rica, since it is responsible for most of the country’s GHG emissions. By 2050, the country has set itself the goal of phasing out its use of fossil fuels step by step and replacing them with renewable energy sources. The country already produces 99 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.

After first focusing on the private transport segment, the government is now turning to public transport and ways to make this more climate-neutral. One specific goal is to have all of Costa Rica’s buses running on electricity by 2030. The three new electric buses will be tested under real-world conditions in a pilot project starting in November.

“Costa Rica has a solid international reputation as an innovator”, explains Randall Zúñiga from the Ministry of Environment and Energy. “We aim to use these new E-buses to show we’re capable of making the change to environmentally friendly and sustainable public transport. Apart from being really comfortable for passengers, the three buses also emit no exhaust fumes and are absolutely silent.”

A pilot run on three routes

Over the next twelve months, the buses will be serving three routes in the San José metropolitan area. Varying both in length and in terms of the steepness of the terrain they cover, the routes are used by around 32,500 to 55,000 passengers a month. These routes were the winning entries in a competition judged by an extensive list of criteria. The data collected from this one-year pilot—which will include bus power consumption, capacity and battery reach, daily passenger numbers, charging times, and the costs of running and maintaining the fleet—will be used to create an operating model template for the electrification of Costa Rica’s entire public transport segment. This will then allow conclusions to be drawn about return on investment compared to diesel-powered buses.

Alongside the three electric low-floor buses themselves, pilot project funding also covers the costs for the associated charging infrastructure, the monitoring system, training for employees, servicing and the corresponding insurance policies for a period of two years.
“Training for the public sector stakeholders involved and the bus companies operating the vehicles is the key to securing the long-term electrification of public transport here,” explains Claus Kruse, director of the MiTransporte project and also responsible for organising the IKI pilot. “By helping local people to become domain experts, we not only ensure the successful implementation of the pilot project but also create a positive environment to foster sustainable public transport in Costa Rica.”