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Trolleybuses? Turns Out Russia Is a World-Beating Competitor

The next-gen from Saratov, efficiently runs on Trolley lines or offline on its own with 0% emissions.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Lately I have been looking into the investment possibilities in Russia which are being kick started by the Eurasian One Belt One Road project. Key to this is how rail and “routed” transportation are already changing markets in aligned territories. While researching, I saw an article in Russian about the continuing growth and technical improvements in an area where I thought everything was long settled. What more can you do to a trolleybus? Trolleybuses in this digital age seem an anachronism, a throwback to another time, but I was wrong.

Seems a lot is being done. In the small city of Saratov, a busy little company has been around in one form or another since 1868. Its name is typical for a long established Russian entity, fetchingly called the TROLLYBUS FACTORY, or ZAO “Trolza” for short (an abbreviation of ‘trolleybusny zavod’).

They have no English language site, or any other language except Russian but it proudly shows strong national sales and growing international sales of its new high tech Trolleybuses. If you read Cyrillic, have at it here. I am sure over time they will get the hint that by adding the languages of their expanding target markets might help business.

While small by western standards, they have their own metals foundry, machining center, body manufacturing, and full line assembly on site. Their production capacity today is 400 trolleybuses a year.

They hold the record of being the most prolific single builders of Trolleybuses in the world. They have managed so far to build more than 66,000 of them. One of their latest vehicles is now making rapid inroads within Trolley markets.

Today it is the world’s only mass-produced Trolley designed to also go off route under its own Lithium battery power. This allows for uninterrupted operation should the power on the lines fail, or if it has to make a detour from established routes, or even run new additional short routes of up to 60 kilometers in zones not yet Trolly-friendly, just like any city bus.

Over time, and especially in recent years quite a bit of R&D has gone into efficiency and lowering power needed to operate these Trolleys. They have managed to reduce by 40% already the amount of electricity needed to run. The economics of operation seem to have other alternatives beat. Running new power access lines is far cheaper when compared to trams that need not only power but also rails, and diesel buses or even hybrids, which meet the latest clean air standards, fall short of the Trolleys 0% emissions.

Lots of effort has been dedicated to assure passenger comfort, from low access to well-planned interiors that are comfortable in all climates, even the now requisite Wi-Fi. From the technical and servicing side the task of maintenance has been simplified by an onboard digital system that constantly analyzes and monitors all systems, giving predictive warning, and identifying the part needing replacement or repair.

The Trolleybus Factory makes Trolleys for 78% of the Russian market, which includes 89 towns, and now exports to 19 countries, as far afield as Argentina, Columbia and Ethiopia. Who can say what their future growth might be once “sanctions diplomacy” goes the way of the Dodo?

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