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Retrofit: a green engine for buses

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In the heart of the urban centers, for example in ZTL, we are witnessing the paradox of bans for the most polluting cars (with the go-ahead also free for green vehicles, in particular hybrid and electric cars) while obsolete buses whiz by. The turning point came with the Infrastructure Decree (121/2021), approved in November, which will allow in the coming months the ban from the roads for the more polluting vehicles dedicated to local public transport. Furthermore, in December, 1.9 billion euros were allocated for the purchase of ecological buses: electric and hydrogen. But from a circular economy perspective, the phenomenon of retrofit: the conversion of heat engines into electric. The structure is saved, the propulsion system is changed.

Support for this path of conversion comes from the November decree that it puts forward the old petrol and diesel buses are outlawed. Let’s start immediately: from 30 June 2022 Euro 1 vehicles will no longer be able to circulate. Only six months later, from 1 January 2023, it is the turn of the Euro 2 buses and from 1 January 2024 to the Euro 3. Despite the huge aid that will arrive from Pnrr for the purchase of new and ecological buses, not all local authorities and LPT companies have the resources to make the necessary investments. The retrofit model comes in handy, allowing savings of hundreds of thousands of euros compared to the purchase of new buses. You spend on the engine and batteries, but you keep the old bus. Those who choose this path can count on a new discipline of state contributions. More money to switch to electric by keeping the vehicle structure so it is not scrapped. With an ecological benefit.

The conversion of engines in Italy has been talked about since 2015 with the Retrofit Decree, dedicated only to cars and which left out the two wheels. It had the goal of spreading gods certified kits to switch thermal vehicles into electric. We wanted to industrialize the process and allow to reduce costs and speed up times. It did not work. For buses, one-piece conversion can work, without kit. But we are also working in this direction. In Germany the kit has been around for some time e-troFit: they started with the Mercedes Citaro vehicles, in a month it transforms the bus with low emissions and offers a range of 250 km. In France the state funded a research center for the development of a bus kit: the progetto Green-eBus. An evolving program where the new focus is on the intercity bus retrofit kit in which the engine will be converted from diesel to electric and with the contribution of a hydrogen fuel cell. A fundamental element to convert buses that travel on extra-urban routes and where the necessary autonomy is higher: at least 300/500 km.

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