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Buses No. 1 for safety and environment

Buses are the most safe and environment-friendly transport means

Buses are undoubtedly the safest means of transport, and will remain so. This is demonstrated very clearly by the official figures from the German Federal Statistical Office. And buses are also top of the league in ecological performance. Emissions-free drivetrains are already being tested and are expected to enhance buses’ leading role in this field.

icon: Busses: no.1 for safety and environment

Buses are involved in only 1.2 per cent of all road traffic accidents with personal injury, which is less than any other mode of transport on the roads. Statistically only one bus passenger is fatally injured for every five billion vehicle kilometres travelled. The number of bus occupants killed in road accidents went down from 58 in 1992 to 10 in 2008. These improvements have been achieved with an extensive package of safety measures for buses. They include not only extremely advanced and technically mature safety technology and intensive driver training, but also government tests and controls for buses, companies and drivers.

Traffic safety is one of the goals of transport policy, a must for automotive design engineers, and one of the key concerns of the bus operators in carrying passengers safely. In relation to the mileages travelled, the frequency of accidents involving buses in Germany has almost halved since 1970. These improvements are principally the result of a highly effective and mature safety technology that is constantly being developed. The clear improvement in passenger compartment rigidity – and thus to rollover stability – is an example of the technical innovations that make buses safer all the time.

Buses’ outstanding safety record shows that technology serves the interests of human beings. The bus manufacturers are fully aware of this responsibility and they invest constantly in research and development, to bring the latest safety technology to series maturity as quickly as possible. For example, the German bus-makers organised in the VDA have already been offering all their new coach types produced since 2004 with the electronic stability program (ESP). At present they are setting their R&D sights primarily on innovative accident prevention equipment (active safety), such as lane departure warnings and lane-change assistants, proximity control systems and night-vision devices. These are gradually being introduced into the vehicles and will continue to have a positive impact on bus safety in the future. These systems can improve vehicle handling properties or support drivers in their monitoring tasks, so they can devote their full attention to what is happening on the road.

To bring about further increases in safety, the leading bus manufacturers in Europe have also entered into a voluntary obligation providing that all coaches and scheduled service buses delivered within the EU that have a rear engine will be fitted with fire alarms as standard from the year 2011 onwards at the latest.

From an ecological point of view buses are THE means of transport

The discussion on CO2 dominates current environmental protection policy – the greenhouse gas effect and global warming. Today critics already have to recognise that buses turn out excellent results regarding CO2 emissions per person-kilometre.

Over a journey of 100 km, modern coaches with an average passenger loading emit only 3.1 kg of carbon dioxide per person. On long-distance journeys trains emit 4.6 kg of carbon dioxide, and airplanes come off much worse, at 35.6 kg of carbon dioxide per passenger. And buses lead in energy consumption, too, at 1.4l /100 passenger-kilometres.

From an ecological viewpoint buses are unbeatable for passenger transport and can make a major contribution to realising the climate protection goals. This is equally true of both tourist travel and local public transport. In local public transport, especially in cities and metropolitan areas, buses are already in use as the most environmentally friendly mode of transport, with modern local buses are making a sustainable contribution to reducing both local and global emissions.

It is undisputed that diesels are the most efficient internal combustion engines. With an average passenger loading of 20 per cent, the fleet consumption of a service bus comes to only around 2 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres. If the buses are full to capacity this value falls to only half a litre, which of course has a positive effect on CO2 emissions.

New technologies …

Buses’ environmental advantage will become even greater as soon as more hybrid drivetrains come into use. Urban buses in particular are very suitable candidates for this technology because of their stop-and-go driving profile. Under these conditions it is possible to reduce consumption by up to 30%. Today hybrid buses from the German OEMs leading in this technology are already proving their worth in extensive practical tests around the world – and every day in local transport.

… for an emissions-free future

And the bus manufacturers are looking further into the future – and that means fuel cells. Zero emissions and unlimited availability: these advantages make hydrogen the "fuel” of the future, in particular whenever it is produced from renewable primary energy sources and used to power fuel cells. However, electrical drivetrains in scheduled service buses bring advantages not only in terms of energy efficiency, but also in vehicle dynamics, comfort and noise protection. In fuel cell technology, urban buses are pioneers in the heavy commercial vehicle segment. German bus manufacturers have already tested their products in many years of field trials all over the world, thus demonstrating that the completely emissions-free fuel cell powertrain powered by hydrogen is suitable for daily use.

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First publication: 07.05.2008 Last modified: 14.09.2010