Mobility Portal, Spain
Date: February 27, 2024
Marianela Taborelli
By Marianela Taborelli
Latin America

The German FlixBus finalizes details for the pilot of interurban electric buses in Chile

FlixBus's arrival in Chile coincides with the announcement of its most successful semester in history. Between January and June 2023, the company reported total earnings of 860 million euros and the preference of over 36 million passengers who traveled with its services.

FlixBus is one of Europe’s leading mobility companies that arrived in Chile last October seeking to revolutionize interurban passenger transport with competitive prices and the promise of the highest industry safety standards.

Chile joins Mexico and Brazil, where FlixBus is already part of the market while progressing in the process of continuing expansion in the rest of the region.

Santiago Echevarría, Head of Business Development & Operations at FlixBus.
Santiago Echevarría, Head of Business Development & Operations at FlixBus.

“A fundamental element of our value proposition is to accelerate the transition to more environmentally friendly technologies,” acknowledges Santiago Echevarría, Head of Business Development & Operations at FlixBus, in dialogue with Mobility Portal Latinoamérica.

He adds regarding the firm’s sustainability plan: “In Europe, we are advanced in the transition process, and the potential is the same in Latin America.”

While in Chile there are some limitations that prevent the provision of interurban transport services with electric buses – mainly due to axle weight and autonomy issues – FlixBus is betting on a pilot.

“We are on the verge of launching a first interurban transport service with battery buses as a pilot to validate the technology and the impact that the extra axle weight can have on the road,” shares Echevarría.

This is a project that will materialize through collaboration with the Ministry of Transport and other actors from the public and private sectors, which will make FlixBus the first bus company in Chile to bet on a exclusively electric service for interurban routes.

The aim is for the pilot to be extended over time and continue after the tests as a regular service.

It is a short-distance service – less than 100 kilometers – where it is observed that buses have a fairly low utilization factor aimed at commuters.

“We believe it is a line perfectly replaceable by battery buses,” argues Santiago Echeverría.

The pilot will be launched during the second quarter of this year. It initially includes three buses, with the goal of scaling the project to reach ten by the end of the year.

They are 42-seat units with a range of 300 kilometers from the King Long brand. The route and/or itinerary are still confidential.

The Metro de Santiago also participates in this public-private partnership, which could play an important role in the bus charging infrastructure as there is a plan to have a charging point at a Metro station and another at the destination.

FlixBus aims to play a significant role in facilitating intermodal connection points and enabling electric corridors between cities.

Sustainability Strategy of FlixBus

“In our strategy, not everything is electrification; we also see buses operating with biogas, where autonomy ceases to be a limitation, although there are higher CAPEX and maintenance costs,” acknowledges Echeverría.

However, FlixBus has a certain “enthusiasm” for hydrogen based on European experiences.

The fleet launched in October consisted of 12 buses. Today there are 36 units, and the goal is to reach around 150 buses by the end of the year.

Regarding passengers’ demand for low or zero-emission units, FlixBus understands that currently, the attributes prioritized in decision-making are comfort, punctuality, and safety.

The current passenger is not willing to pay an additional fee for low or zero-emission technology because it is not their priority.

“It’s a matter of time for the mindset to change and for passengers to be willing to pay for this attribute,” concludes the Head of Business Development & Operations at FlixBus.

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