Big promises were made 3 years ago about turning public transportation green in Budapest. “The government is supporting and financing the purchase of three thousand electric buses in this cycle” – stated Chancellor Gergely Gulyás in the spring of 2019. There is no publicly available data on how many are actually on the roads in 2022.
The journalists of Népszava tried to uncover the truth. However, they did not receive answers to their questions from the ministry in charge. The relevant data are also missing from the database of the KSH (Hungarian Central Statistical Office).
Industry experts claim that only a small part of the plans had been carried out. Gellért Patthy, editor of the magyarbusz.info said, while there were more and more e-buses on the roads, there were barely a hundred electric buses running as scheduled.
For those who are in the bus industry, these numbers are not a surprise. Gergely Gulyás’s plan to buy 3,000 electronic buses in 3 years is financially impossible for the Hungarian government. In the whole of Europe, in 2021, only 3,282 such buses were sold. Back then in 2019, Gulyás said one bus cost HUF 80 million (EUR 201,000). That would have amounted to HUF 240 billion (EUR 604 million) if the original plan came through.
Compared to that, regarding the 2020-2029 project, the government’s budget is currently HUF 36 billion (EUR 90 million). When Népszava contacted the Ministry of Technology and Industry (Technológiai és Ipari Minisztérium) on why they changed plans and what are the results so far, they only got evasive answers about the European Union’s climate goals and the green project.
The governing party’s members keep emphasising the importance of using electric buses. After handing over 12 new e-buses in Debrecen in August, the president of the Ministry of Technology and Industry highlighted that due to the country’s exposure to crude oil and natural gas, there was a great need to utilise renewable energy capacities. Since these buses are cheaper to operate, the costs pay off sooner.
Another issue that comes with changing the public transport system is the short capacity of the batteries. Larger batteries take up too much space, and with the smaller ones, to cover the routes of 10 diesel buses, they would need 12-14 electric ones.
Nonetheless, everything else is in favour of operating electric buses in the country, says Gellért Patthy. A political decision has been made to promote electromobility in the EU, which provides almost unlimited support to green projects. This also positively affects the transport companies operating with state and local government funds: European cities are practically competing with each other to run fully electric bus fleets by the time period of 2030 and 2045.