Many of the very best mobility ideas falter in the face of infrastructure hurdles tossing up more problems — and potential costs — than the solution itself.

Take electric cars for example. Although the driving can be exciting, it’s relatively short-lived and often accompanied by “charge anxiety”, or the feeling of doom as you venture further away from the nearest charging station.

Tesla has solved that in the US by funding and building a network of stations across the country so Tesla owners can drive anywhere and charge their battery up to 80 per cent in about 20 minutes. But outside the US you’re dependent on an overnight charge at home or a top-up at the office.

So a new agreement by Volvo Buses, which has seen it sign a global agreement with the giant Siemens group to supply complete electrified bus systems to cities, is significant.

It appears to be an ideal marriage. Under the agreement, Volvo Buses will supply electric-hybrid and full-electric buses to operators, and Siemens will supply and install high-power charging stations (charging capacity of up to 300kW) to support them.

The two companies have been working together since 2012 on electromobility and have now strengthened the co-operation and plan to develop a standard for charging infrastructure so city authorities can easily transfer to electrified bus systems.

Volvo Bus Corporation president Hakan Agnevall said he was delighted to partner with one of the world’s biggest technology companies, which shared the Volvo vision of electromobility.

“The agreement enables us to seize new business opportunities and support the cities in the shift to sustainable and cost-efficient public-transportation systems, ” he said.

Siemens recognises electrified buses are an essential part of sustainable urban public transportation. The companies both bring in technology and experience that can shape this trend.

A complete city mobility solution has already been delivered to Hamburg, Germany. Three Volvo electric-hybrid buses and four charging stations have been installed where the buses operate on the city’s new Innovation route. During 2015, electric buses, electric hybrids and charging infrastructure will be delivered to the Swedish cities of Gothenburg and Stockholm.

The charging infrastructure includes the charging station, auxiliary equipment, cabling, civil works, installation, commissioning and maintenance.

The Volvo 7900 Electric Hybrid bus enables the reduction of fuel consumption and carbon dioxide by up to 75 per cent. Total energy consumption is reduced by 60 per cent, compared with Euro 6 diesel buses. The Volvo hybrid runs in electric mode on an average 70 per cent of the route, silent and emission-free. Charging at end stations takes up to six minutes.

Since launching its first diesel-hybrid bus in 2009, the company has delivered more than 5000 electric buses and electric hybrids to 21 countries. The first electric buses under the Volvo brand will enter traffic within the ElectriCity project in Gothenburg in June.

The Perth opportunity is obvious, with city commuter buses, especially the CAT system, being an obvious potential entry point for electromobility.

Although the existing technology does not appear to allow it, augmenting the batteries of electric buses with solar roof panels seems a logical next step in optimising an electric bus route for Perth city.

It would just need some bells on the front to alert sleepy pedestrians.

© The West Australian

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