We sat down recently with Kerstin Kube-Erkens, the Director of the Trade Show and Congress BUS2BUS, just ahead of their event on the 27th and 28th of April. Kerstin Kube-Erkens works for Messe Berlin, one of the largest trade exhibition companies in Germany. She received her degree in business administration from the University of Westminster in London and the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. She started her career as a regional sales director at Elf Oil Deutschland GmbH (now Total). As a product architect, Kerstin focuses on new product ideas for Messe Berlin, conducts market assessments, and develops business cases in a national and international context. She is especially interested in interdisciplinary work and knowledge transfer.
Autonomy: What role can the bus play in reducing car ownership and car trips?
By signing up to the Autonomy newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from us that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.
Kerstin: One of our main goals at BUS2BUS is to provide a platform for discussion. The focus at BUS2BUS 2022 is to spark the discussion on how digital innovations, design and aesthetics can contribute to making buses more attractive and more perceptible in public life. We have categorized these discussions as well as the exhibitors and startups contributing to this topic under the heading “Fresh Travel”.
With our “Fresh Travel” segment, we want to raise public awareness of the bus. Buses are already playing a key role in the redesign of cities. Thanks to their flexibility, they are predestined for designing individual mobility concepts. Whether it’s a large city bus or a small on-demand bus – buses can meet all requirements. And they do so immediately and increasingly with alternative drives. Combined with modern and customer-friendly equipment and cool designs, the bus is a much better alternative to the car in the city, but also on the long haul. The young target group in particular is open to such concepts.
Autonomy: How is the bus industry overcoming negative perceptions of using a bus?
Kerstin: A lot has happened here and a lot will continue to develop. The bus is and can be a real alternative to the airplane. Environmentally conscious target groups in particular are open to innovative travel concepts. Customers are demanding and very diverse in their needs. Those requirements have to be answered with creative offers. Such ideas already exist in the bus travel segment; the challenge is to bring the quality of a bus trip to public transportation as well. There are already great approaches to this, which we will also present at BUS2BUS.
Autonomy: Will intercity busses go H2 or Battery Electric
Kerstin: At the moment, both concepts are used in the context of urban transport. The BUS2BUS 2022 will present both hydrogen and e-buses for cities. In the intercity sector, we can already see the first approaches for the use of electrified buses, for example from Solaris or Ebusco. Even passenger transport is likely to be electrified in the future, as current projects in the USA show, such as a journey of an full-electric Van Hool coach from Florida to California over more than 4,000 km. In terms of sales figures, the battery-electric bus is currently clearly ahead of the hydrogen bus in the city segment. 3,282 units were sold in Western Europe and Poland in 2021, compared to only 158 fuel cell buses. With all-electric buses, the trend is towards depot charging, supplemented for example in the intercity segment by short recharges during the day. This also facilitates the development of a corresponding infrastructure, which can be concentrated primarily on the depots.
Autonomy: How are bus operators working with mobility operators to integrate the first and last mile?
Kerstin: I observe cooperations between public transport operators and mobility providers in almost all major cities in Germany and in Europe. The concepts range from on-demand, shared mobility, autonomous shuttles to micro-mobility. At the moment, a lot of the services are still concentrated in inner-city areas. I believe the breakthrough will come when areas that are really difficult to reach can be integrated into these concepts and operated economically. In rural regions in particular, there is still a lack of comprehensive, attractive concepts.
Autonomy: What incentive is required to connect rural areas to their urban counterparts since they don’t often get the same opportunities regarding buses?
Kerstin: The challenges in this regard are very high. Overall concepts will be even more urgent in the future than before. This starts with the development of appropriate on-demand systems as shuttles for larger bus stations and continues with the synchronised coordination of bus and rail services, all the way to mobile booking and timetable apps. Accordingly, electrified minibuses should also be used as shuttles, as should electrified large buses for journeys between regional centres.
Autonomy: Much of our means of commuting that occupied shared spaces experienced a drop in ridership during the Pandemic, buses included. Now that the pandemic is coming to a close, what is the future for buses in your point of view?
Kerstin: Buses will only gradually recover from the passenger declines in the pandemic. The uncertainty of users is still being felt as the pandemic is not over yet. But it will be able to gain some shares in the next few years, especially if fuel prices remain anywhere near their current level. The trend is clearly towards increased use of multimodal transport, in which the bus plays an important role. Antiviral filters and surfaces, as well as protection systems for drivers on buses, should significantly increase the confidence of passengers and staff in their safety in the future.
If you’re interested in what Kerstin Kube-Erkens has to say, you can check out their event on the 27/28th of April here. There are also “Digital Only” tickets available for those unable to travel to Berlin. The BUS2BUS plus Online Platform is the digital event platform of BUS2BUS and offers extensive networking opportunities as well as exhibitor and product presentations. Selected parts of the stage program will also be streamed on the platform.