A roundtable discussion on the development of electric public transport and the post-war recovery of Ukraine, which was organized by the NGO Vision Zero, has taken place as part of the All-Ukrainian Urban Mobility Forum that is currently taking place in Lviv.

At the event, representatives of cities and experts discussed the problems currently hindering the development of networks of urban public transport. They also discussed the feasibility of following the battery bus trend that is currently popular in Europe, and the ability of Ukrainian manufacturers to meet cities’ needs for modern electric transport.

The CFTS presents the key points made by the panelists.

Orest Oleskiv, head of the Lviv Transport Department

In the context of the fact that we are now introducing electronic tickets, we are moving to a new vision of the public transport system in general. In my opinion, it is wrong to separate electric transport and road public transport. My suggestion is that these modes of transport should be unified at the legislative level. This should also apply to common transportation rules because there are currently separate rules for using electric vehicles and motor vehicles. Therefore, in our opinion, the step toward legislative unification is very important.

Vasyl Klat, Mariupol City Council

At the state level, we need a program for the development of electric transport with some state funding. There used to be such a program, under which the Cabinet of Ministers tried to finance the purchase of trams. There used to be a certain preferential price for electricity for public electric transport. Now, electric transport is a story for cities: if a city finds the necessary funds, electric transport develops; if it does not, it does not develop. Support from the state could give a certain impetus to the development of electric transport. It could be in the form of financing, preferential rates, or "long money."

Vitalii Holutiak, director of the Elektroavtotrans municipal enterprise (Ivano-Frankivsk)

Regarding the unification of legislation, we all support it. Although, if we are talking specifically about electric transport, we still have a more or less good situation because electric transport has its own law, and it is possible to pay for transport work. As a utility company, we have no problems with payment for electric transport. The problem is with payment for the road transport part.

As for government support, this is also a problem. Who oversees electric transport at the Cabinet of Ministers level? We have one government department that deals with this, and it employs two or three people.

I think that the key problem we will face is the maintenance of electric transport and personnel issues. Basically, in all cities, we have problems with drivers of electric vehicles, motivating them to work, and providing decent working conditions. An even bigger problem is the technical staff. There are practically no technicians - people in their 50s and 60s are doing the work. Electric transport is moving forward, but we have no state-level program for training personnel.

Andrii Sorokin, director of the Department of Transport and Urban Mobility (Vinnytsia)

In addition to the fact that there is a general shortage of personnel, the war has made adjustments. For example, over 100 employees of our Vinnytsia Transport Company have been drafted into military service, and they are now defending our country. Therefore, we are experiencing a very significant shortage of personnel to operate the incoming rolling stock on the routes.

I would also add that legislation on localization has now been passed. It stipulates that 15% of the components for rolling stock must be produced domestically. We are now working to increase the number of electric buses and purchase more. At the same time, we have to rely on the localization legislation, but few companies in Ukraine can offer us an electric bus made locally. Therefore, there are some problems with this.

Moreover, there is a law that requires a certain percentage of electric buses by 2035. However, there are contradictions in this.

Ihor Makovtsev, director of the Dnipro Transport Department

Regarding the legislation, there is the question of how to categorize an electric bus: is it an electric vehicle or a bus?

Everyone discusses electric transport as municipal. But why should an electric bus be a public utility? Why don't private carriers have the ability to service electric buses?

And here we return to the economic benefits of using a particular type of rolling stock. For example, a tram will never generate enough money for a utility company to pay for itself. That is why we are talking about transport operations and the sharing of funds. In particular, all the funds received from passengers should go to the city, and the city should pay carriers (regardless of whether it is a private carrier or a utility company) in accordance with the parameters of their transportation operations. This should be taken into account in the legislation.

The second issue involving the legislation is the development of private electric transport. One of the problems here is the charging infrastructure. For the required number of charging stations to appear, it is necessary to create the capacity, which is a big problem in the central parts of large cities. The existing electric transport infrastructure can be used for this, but the rules for using electric transport specifically prohibit any other users from connecting to this transport infrastructure. Therefore, in my opinion, this also needs to be changed.

Volodymyr Budzan, commercial director of Elektronmash

Ukraine is home to the production of an entire range of electric vehicles. If we talk about buses, we are quite dependent on many foreign components, but in terms of electric vehicles, we have much more opportunities to demonstrate localization. Our electric bus, for example, has 42% localization in Ukraine. Therefore, the localization issue is not a problem at all.

The capacities of Ukrainian transport manufacturers are not at all fully utilized. If we look at the production capacity of Lutsk Automobile Assembly Plant No. 1, it can produce 6,000 buses, trolleybuses, and electric buses a year. We can produce up to 500 buses and electric buses a year. There is also Etalon, which can produce about 500. There is production of trams and trolleybuses in Dnipro. The issue is different: when cities announce their tenders, they set such qualification requirements that we simply cannot participate in their tenders.

There must be a domestic market, enterprises must be busy, and there must be jobs for Ukrainians. After all, the machine-building industry is a locomotive that creates up to 20 jobs in related industries for every job.

Maryna Virkun, head of the Kherson Transport Department

The situation (after the liberation of Kherson from the Russian occupiers) is that public transport was stolen in the city, and 37 public transport vehicles were taken out of the city. After the shelling of the city, about 20 trolleybuses were damaged. 80% of the catenary network was damaged. In three months, we restored it on our own and with the help of other cities that provided us with materials. We were able to resume the operation of electric transport in April, and we are currently producing 20 pieces of equipment. Today, there are also almost 100 buses belonging to private and municipal carriers operating in the city.

But now we need to revise the city's transport system because the passenger flow has completely changed because many residents have left Kherson. But we are restricted by the law. Kherson would also like to receive state support in upgrading its rolling stock. We are focusing on the development of autonomous electric transport and have been asking for it.

After the liberation, we are still in correspondence with the government. We are currently submitting requests regarding our needs.

Anton Hahen, transport planning specialist

European cities are purchasing electric buses in large numbers, but it is quite dangerous to rely solely on this experience. You need to understand the context of cities. Most European cities abandoned their electric transport networks during the period of cheap diesel fuel and, for them, the battery bus is a return to electric transport in a situation where a city's electric transport infrastructure has been absent for 40–50 years.

Our situation is radically different. Most of our cities have quite large electric transport networks. So we have to take into account the fact that we already have this infrastructure. We also need to understand the limitations of battery buses because they are not without their drawbacks. They also need infrastructure, and their mileage is significantly reduced when it is necessary to heat their interiors (losses of up to 40%).

Prague, which has a developed tram network, has conducted a field study on the use of electric buses in the city. In the process, it found that neither a battery bus with night charging nor a bus with recharging at the terminal stations are effective under the conditions in which it wants to operate electric buses (on the busiest routes in the city). It turned out that the most effective way would be to restore the trolleybus network. Therefore, Prague is currently implementing a program to convert bus routes into a regime with autonomous trolleybuses.

Dmytro Bespalov, director of ProMobility

For me, there is private transport or public transport. Public transport is losing out to private transport in Ukraine and if we do not change the situation, we will lose public transport in its civilized form - there will be tuk-tuks and electric mopeds.

One of the factors behind the modal shift in public transport is short intervals and spare capacity.

2025 is the year of electric transport in the world. A major Canadian company told me they alone will have a lot of diesel buses to retire. Therefore, it is likely that "dirty" diesel buses in sufficient numbers can, as a temporary but quick solution, improve the ecology of cities more than a handful of electric buses. We will perform more transport operations for less money. Therefore, it is necessary to make pragmatic decisions based on feasibility studies.

New infrastructure is more important than new rolling stock. Our calculations have shown that old infrastructure kills new rolling stock even faster.

Therefore, it is worth voicing the need not only for rolling stock, but also for infrastructure for electric transport.

Viktor Zahreba, board chairman of the Vision Zero NGO

The best electric bus is a trolleybus with a battery. This is not only our opinion, it is also the opinion reached in the Czech Republic and Germany, which was discussed at the InnoTrans exhibition in Berlin. Calculations confirm that battery trolleybuses are superior to battery buses in terms of cost, energy efficiency, environmental friendliness, and service life. It is great that battery trolleybuses are already in active use in Dnipro and that Lviv is also aiming to switch from diesel buses to these modern electric buses with dynamic charging.

Judging by the points made by the participants in the roundtable, we have historically had many blockages and obstacles at the level of government policy and regulations that cities have to put up with or somehow work around. Unlike, say, Germany or Austria, the existing regulatory framework, unfortunately, does not promote the development of electric public transport. On the contrary, it blocks and slows down its development. It would be great if these blockages were removed. This would allow the cities represented at the roundtable to develop their electric transport infrastructure and transport services.