In Sweden, new buses hosted a series of acoustic performances to demonstrate their quiet ride through a noisy city. Picture mariachi bands trying to outscream screeching train cars on the New York City subway, and you'll quickly realize that public transportation isn't an ideal music venue. But when a new electric bus hosted a series of surprise concerts in Gothenburg, Sweden, it was a different experience.
"We wanted to communicate around one of the main advantages of electric buses—their silence," says Helena Lind from Volvo, which designed the fully electric bus. "The electric buses are so quiet that acoustic concerts can be held onboard."
The concerts, with a couple of popular Swedish musicians, were a way to point to some of the less-obvious benefits of switching to electric buses, beyond the fact that they eliminate smog and climate pollution.
"Rising noise levels represent a serious health problem in big cities around the world," Lind says. "Silent buses allow for cities to be planned in new ways, where the buses can come closer to where people live and move. That’s why we're convinced that electric public transport in cities is the way forward."
The bus is part of a larger project called ElectriCity, where Volvo is working with universities, urban planners, and transport agencies to test and evaluate new, more sustainable public transportation. That includes rethinking how the city might be redesigned to accommodate it.
"Silent, emission free buses open up entirely new opportunity in urban planning," she says. "You can have, for example, indoor bus stops, which is a major benefit in cold climates. Overall, the bus systems can be much more integrated in the city infrastructure."
The electric buses in the test project run on wind and hydro power, and generate extra power every time they brake. At each end of the bus route, the buses take six minutes to recharge. Volvo already has around 2,000 hybrid electric buses in use around the world, but the fully electric buses are new. Production starts in 2017.