Urban Transport

Is trolleybus the right choice?


Two Turkish cities, İstanbul and Samsun, are evaluating trolleybus in two routes.

Trolleybuses were widely used in many cities, but lost their popularity by time and taken out of service in many countries like Turkey and UK. In 2015, very similar vehicles, trumbuses started service in Turkish city Malatya. Now two more cities are considering trolleybus: İstanbul and Malatya.

Trolleybus to replace metrobus in İstanbul

Metrobus, long buses running on 52-km-long special lane crossing city has attracted much more passengers than once planned. Daily ridership reaches to 800k in average. Many metrobus vehicles are 12-13 years old, thus fleet needs to be renewed. Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality is now considering to replace them with trolleybuses which will help increasing capacity, decreasing operating costs and pollution.

Trolleybus instead of tram in Samsun

Samsun Metropolitan Municipality declared that trolleybus is being considered instead of extending current tram line to Taflan and airport. Mr Demir, the mayor, said that trolleybuses will use current road, thus initial investment and operating costs will be less than trams.

Bus or trolleybus?

Trolleybus has many advantages compared to bus. Trolleybus is running with electricity, thus is eco-friendly and fuel cost is 70-80% less. Electric engines are more powerful, vehicles accelarating faster and can cross slopes faster. Maintanance cost is less, life time is longer. It’s possible to regenerate energy during brakes in trolleybus.

The biggest disadvantage is the more expensive initial cost, due to electric wires and purchase cost of trolleybus. Trolleybuses can only run on roads where electric wires exist. Electric wires may be considered as ugly in city centers.

Since metrobuses are running on special lane in the middle of highway, other reasons except cost are not issue. Since metrobuses are currently running on a very long route over capacity, it seems İstanbul will benefit of this shift, if realized.

Trolleybus or tram?

A tram line metrobus lane has never been discussed. In fact, tram or a light metro (LRV) like in Bursa on metrobus lane would increase the capacity and the comfort.

One reason that tram is never considered is the very high ridership that was never expected at the beginning. This much capacity needs metro rather than tram. Two bridges on the route, Bosphrous and Halic (Goldenhorn) bridges are making it impossible (or very hard) to build tram line. Finally metrobus is currently so crucial for İstanbul that an interruption of service to lay tram rails cannot be accepted. On the other hand, shifting to trolleybus does not need any interruption.

Otherwise, trams or LRVs are certainly preferable with faster accelaration, upto 6 times more capacity, less operating costs, moving in narrower lane, upto 4-5 times longer life time, especially since special lane is ready to use.

The disadvantage of tram is the initial investment in Samsun. Laying of rails is the biggest cost item. For trolleybus, only electric wires need to be built, similar to tram line. But the road for trolleybus is being used for intercity transports, thus building electric wires should be considered carefully.

In general it’s said that trolleybuses should be prefered if daily ridership is less than 10k, whereas rail system is better if it’s higher.

Trolleybus or electric bus?

Yes trolleybus has another rival: Electric bus. Bus with battery.

Electric bus is almost same with trolleybus, except it does not need electric wires which means getting rid of the initial investment. Instead electric bus uses batteries where electricity is stored. Naturally, batteries have limits, thus electric bus has a range. More range means more batteries and battery is one of the biggest cost item of electric bus. Electric buses are currently have a range upto 400 km. This seems quite enough for cities except for metrobus running on a 52-km-long route all day long.

Electric bus has another advantage that can be added to any system very easily. What you need is a bus and a mobile charging station. They can easily be shifted to another route.

Electric buses are produced and used in Turkey

It can be unexpected but there are many electric bus manufacturers in Turkey: Bozankaya, Temsa, Otokar, Karsan.

A manufacturer in Turkey, Bozankaya both produces trumbus and electric bus. It’s possible to compare prices. The trambus that was produced for Malatya, which is an improved version of trolleybus, is €760k. It’s puite long (24.7 mt) and has a capacity of 270 pax. Trambus is longer than standard trolleybus and has battery. It can go without wire for short distances. This is a big advantage for metrobus case, since there metrobus leaves special lane and goes on Bosphorus Bridge together with other cars.

The electric bus produced for Konya was €351k. The Sileo buses of Bozankaya has 4 different sizes. Konya bought Sileo 10, the smallest one having 10.7 mt length, 90 pax capacity and 280 km range. Biggest one is Sileo 25, having a capacity of 210 pax and range of 300 km.

Due to these reasons, many Turkish cities prefered electric bus. Bozankaya’s E-Karat is sold to İzmir (20 pcs) and Eskişehir (4 pcs). Elazığ agreed for 15 and Manisa for 22 Sileo 18. Kayseri agreed for 10 Sileo 18 and 8 Sileo 25. Balıkesir is having talks with Temsa for MD9. Karaman is planning to buy 10 electric buses.

Cover photo: Bozankaya ©

Categories: Urban Transport

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2 replies »

  1. When will metro to Istanbul Airport be opened? I want to travel to Turkey January next year so I was wondering whether it will be open by that time.

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