The fact that the VDL factory for electric buses is located in Roeselare, Flanders, is not yet a guarantee of the rapid spread of this more sustainable transport across Belgium. Peter Wouters, managing director at VDL Roeselare, expresses his worries about the Belgian situation in a VRT broadcast. “Flanders is still lagging behind. A change of direction requires political courage.”

At VDL Roeselare, 100 electric buses are ready to be delivered to Connexxion in North Holland. This is the largest order for e-buses in Western Europe, with the consequence that Eindhoven can no longer boast of the largest fleet of e-buses. A few years ago, VDL Roeselare, part of the VDL Groep with headquarters in Eindhoven, decided to focus all developments on electric buses. “That requires major development costs and investment in technology”, says Peter Wouters at VRT. “But it is bearing fruit already.”

According to Wouters, the explanation for the difference between the neighbouring countries is simple: from 2025 on, no new public transport buses in the Netherlands will be allowed to emit any polluting substances. From 2030 this will even apply to all buses in operation. “It is very striking that in Wallonia, Brussels, and Flanders it was decided to start driving hybrid buses instead of full electric ones in addition to diesel buses in the coming years”, says Wouters. “There are a few small pilot projects in Flanders and Brussels. But we are, therefore, way behind Scandinavia and the Netherlands.”

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Wouters thinks that politics has a role to play in this. “They define the policy for bus company De Lijn. When I hear them talk about this, it is very often about budget and savings, and too little about the possibilities offered by technology to rapidly evolve into zero emitting buses. This awareness is much stronger in the Netherlands.”

The costs for e-buses are currently higher than for diesel buses. Wouters expects that this difference will turn into an advantage for electric transport around 2020.

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Author profile picture Bart Brouwers is co-founder and co-owner of Media52 BV, the publisher of innovationorigins.com.