Malta puts 30 electric buses into operation
The 12-meter electric buses from Chinese manufacturer King Long have a range of up to 300 kilometres and will be used on 16 routes, and are expected to make up to 410 trips per day. They are also equipped with modern amenities such as accessibility, air conditioning, USB chargers and free Wi-Fi.
According to Malta Public Transport, the buses in the charging depot can be charged with up to 240 kW. In addition, all 30 buses can be charged simultaneously. In most cases, this happens overnight to ensure uninterrupted operation from morning to evening.
It also announced a pilot project for an electric minibus to be tested in village centres and on low-demand routes. These low-density areas in many areas across the world increasingly find themselves under-serviced across Europe when economic policy privatising public services leaves providers few profit incentives for servicing such areas.
However, it appears the government in Malta has recognised this challenge. During his speech at the inauguration of the buses and charging depot, Minister Farrugia explained that the Government is investing heavily in alternative transport, making public transport a priority to reduce the dependency on personal cars. In low-density and rural areas, so-called forced car ownership due to lack of alternatives leaves many people, such as youth and the elderly without any transport at all.
“This is why we need to continue working together as the regulator and the operator so that the country gets a service of quality, whilst effecting changes in the routes and frequencies to accommodate the needs of passengers and new demographics. All this while we continue with our commitment to expand with the electrification of the fleet,” Minister Farrugia explained.
Besides mobility in low-density areas, high-density areas suffer from increasing road congestion. Felipe Cosmen, Chairman of Malta Public Transport noted that in August 2023, public transport services reached a significant milestone by carrying over 6 million passengers for the first time. “It is a strong sign of confidence in our bus operation and shows that people in Malta are willing to use the bus,” he pointed out. “However, we cannot stop here. We need to continue to make public transport even more attractive. We are collaborating with the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, in order to identify feasible short-term and medium-term solutions that will alleviate congestion on our roads.”
At the beginning of the year, Malta also put out to tender the procurement of 250 new electric vehicles for its own fleet. The 10-million-euro project, funded by the EU, is expected to increase the share of electric vehicles in the public sector from seven per cent in 2021 to 40 per cent.