Keolis steers away from diesel to electric buses with Stratio AI tech
Data collected from buses offers crucial insight into battery life and route optimization
Public transport operator Keolis runs bus, tram, coach and train services across the globe, including London’s Docklands Light Railway, Manchester’s Metrolink tram system and Los Angeles County’s bus network.
In a bid to support sustainability efforts at the public transport authorities (PTAs) it serves, the company is already running electric bus trials in French cities such as Orléans, Rennes and Lyon. Keolis also launched the first 100% electric bus rapid transit service in France for passengers in Bayonne-Biarritz and Amiens.
Now, thanks to the latest AI tech, bus and coach journeys across the company’s network are becoming even more eco-friendly.
Keolis has recently started using Stratio’s fleet maintenance technology, which is designed to improve the efficiency of buses and coaches, thereby cutting emissions and encouraging more passengers to switch from private to public modes of transport.
To reduce current levels of dependence on cars, commuters and other travellers need to be confident in the reliability of pubic transport for getting them where they need to be, when they need to be there. Stratio’s AI predictive maintenance technology collects and analyzes vehicle data to help predict component failures before they cause bus breakdowns, something which damages consumer trust in bus services.
AI predictive maintenance uses the data to spot patterns that indicate possible failures, and give operators full control over the health of their vehicles. The data also assesses and promotes eco-driving strategies, which lower emissions across internal combustion engine (ICE) fleets and save money on fuel.
The idea behind the Stratio technology is to enable a future where fleet transport is reliable, sustainable and accessible, explains Rui Sales, Co-founder and President of Stratio:
We give full visibility of the main assets of a transportation company, that is the vehicle. We digitize vehicles moving across roads with Artificial Intelligence. By analyzing this data, we are capable of anticipating failure, of understanding the health of components so we can keep vehicles operating instead of being in repair.
This is critical, not just to anticipate breakdowns, minimize and plan downtime in getting vehicles on the road, but to reduce costs and improve the customer experience.
As every vehicle is different, previously visibility was limited and it was difficult to get access to the necessary data. Stratio is able to access data from all sensors in a vehicle, regardless of the brand or model of that vehicle, and then provides that information to transport operators. Sales adds:
We had to build our own device in-house and our own technology to interpret the data that comes from the vehicle. Vehicles don't offer a simplified way of putting that data in the hands of transport operators that operate multiple vehicles, multiple brands and models.
For Keolis, the technology is helping meet the three main objectives the company has for its PTA clients.
The first is the attractiveness of public transport and the customer experience. This is crucial for making sure the firm can promote and enable the shift from personal car to public transport. Pierre Gosset, Executive Director of Keolis’ Industrial Division, explains:
Operators want us to come with ideas to improve that customer experience or public transport attractiveness. Taking the type of technology that Stratio develops, especially for buses and coaches, is extremely helpful for us to ensure that we are providing our clients with the best reliability and availability of the fleet to limit downtime and breakdowns. It’s not only to perform classical maintenance, but we’re moving to predictive maintenance to make sure we can address whatever type of breakdown very early so there is no impact for our customers.
The second objective for Keolis is to support PTAs’ decarbonization strategy. Around 30% of greenhouse gas emissions are linked to transport. Although that’s not only public transport, PTAs are extremely active in the field of decarbonization, Gosset says:
This is where we are supporting them, using the type of technology that Stratio develops to reduce fuel consumption for eco-driving. You need to get real-time data to move to this eco-driving strategy and try to reduce your fuel consumption. You need to train drivers. When we’re getting good information, when we’re taking time to train our people, we can save something like 6%-7% of energy. Less energy means less costs, but also less greenhouse gas emitted. So this is not only good for finance, but this is good in terms of sustainability.
The third major stake is public financing. This has become more of an issue recently with the increase in energy costs, not only for diesel but also gas and electricity. Gosset adds:
We all know we need to use more public transportation, but there's a question of investment, there's a question of OpEx. We need to propose some new ideas to get public transport high performance but less costly.
Keolis currently operates around 23,000 buses and coaches, and is in the process of a huge shift to tele-diagnostics and real-time monitoring. To take advantage of AI data analysis, vehicles first need to have Stratio sensors fitted, as even brand new models don’t have the necessary technology embedded. Once the device is fitted, it’s integrated into the vehicle to collect data, which is then sent back to servers and analyzed in a platform provided for Keolis.
So far, around 10% of Keolis-operated bus and coach fleets are equipped with the Stratio technology, a process that took around six to eight months. That number is also ramping up quickly to add more vehicles.
Keolis started the project in France, which accounts for around half of its fleet. The firm also has large fleets in Sweden, the US and Australia, and step two of the project could be talking to Stratio about exporting the technology abroad. Gosset adds:
The key reason we've selected Stratio is because they’re vehicle-agnostic. We've got large fleets, with different types of OEMs, technical solutions and architectures. The solution from Stratio is smart enough to interface and get the appropriate data from whatever types of buses and coaches we have. This agnostic view is extremely important.
While the firm is using Stratio sensors on its buses and coaches, Keolis also uses other sensors that suit the specifics of trams or trains, to monitor the brakes or doors or the HVAC, for example.
A key sustainability benefit of the Stratio technology is supporting the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). The data collected offers insights into practical ways to maintain and optimize EV battery life, a crucial aspect of the shift to electric. This is crucial for Keolis’ public transport strategy for buses and coaches that will see diesel vehicles switched for electric vehicles.
The issues with diesel buses are well-known to Keolis, and something for which the firm is well-equipped to manage. Moving to electric is more of an unknown and requires understanding of the long-lasting behavior of the battery, and how to optimize and improve assets. Gosset notes:
Pushing to get additional electric or hydrogen vehicles as part of a decarbonization strategy requires tele-diagnostics, real-time information, and a deep learning capability on large data sets to improve things. You need tons of information and to move from the mechanic world to the data-centric world.
This is where the technology provided by Stratio is extremely important to us. It’s great to reduce the cost of maintenance or improve the availability of my diesel fleet, but if I'm not able to address the specificity of an electrical fleet, to have the ability to dig deep in the data and see various patterns to get longer lifetime for my battery, I will have some issues.
So can we expect to see fleets of shiny new electric buses and coaches on the streets across the US and UK anytime soon? Unlikely. Keolis is having conversations with PTAs across the globe around what type of transport they want and what type of financing they're willing to devote to public transport, and the answer differs greatly depending on where they are in the world.
Gosset cited Northern Europe as a leader in this field, for example Sweden where buses have to be eco-friendly by law:
We are running around 5,000 buses in Sweden. None of them are diesel buses. All of them are running with alternative solutions, whether electric, biogas or biodiesel.
We've got some clients super-committed to invest massive money in public transport, getting very comfortable, modern, sustainable solutions; and some others that are trying to reduce the OpEx as much as possible [leading to] poor public transport. It’s about financing and political will.