The (future) possibilities of zero emission wheelchair transport

As a specialist in e-mobility solutions for target group transport, Erik Henneken, Business Development Manager e-Mobility at Tribus, knows what is going on in the market of electric passenger transport. In this role, Erik is also involved in zero-emission initiatives by, among others, municipalities and governments, both at home and abroad, as well as the many development projects that will start in the future. We interviewed Erik to share with you his vision and knowledge of (future) e-mobility solutions.

All Europe countries have committed to the Paris climate agreement. This contains objectives that all countries must achieve together, including the transport sector and specifically target group transport. To archieve the result in the Netherlands, a project group of municipalities, market parties, manufacturers and other (brance) organizations was formed in 2018. They set up an action plan for zero-emission target-group transportin the Netherlands. Tribus is also affiliated and represented by Erik Henneken. Erik: “In 2019, all parties reached a consensus and the Administrative Agreement and Covenant was signed: Completely emission-free target group transport from January 1, 2025.

Signing day of the Dutch Zero Emission target group transport covenant with Erik Henneken, Business Development Manager e-Mobility

The Dutch government also set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands by almost 50% by 2030. Since the government has set a guaranteed transition to zero-emission public transport, a large potential market has been created for electric vehicles. As a result, manufacturers are provided with an interesting return model and dare to take on large and expensive development projects because of it. Developments are still in its infancy, but they follow each other in quick succession, such as; battery packs that last longer or offer more capacity, alternative fuel solutions, more recyclable, lighter or more sustainable products.

At the moment there are only a few electric vehicles available for wheelchair accessible transport. An offer that Erik describes as “a good start”, where an ideal solution in terms of range is not yet available. Erik continues: ,,The current solutions focus on an electric motor, because hydrogen filling stations are not yet sufficiently available. Because of the weight of the battery packs, the maximum weight of 3500 kg for an M1 vehicle is almost impossible to achieve, especially with a large range. Manufacturers’ electric vehicles weigh about 2600 to 2800 kg without a wheelchair conversion. To transport 8 passengers we need to add another 75kg per person. With 675kg of people there is only 25 – 225kg available for a Tribus wheelchair conversion, a particularly difficult task. There are other options available, such as reducing the number of seats/ passengers. Unfortunately, practice has shown that this alternative is often not ideal for the schedules of operators. Of course we at Tribus are lobbying in Brussel to increase the maximum GVW for driving license B, but unfortunately this has not yet paid off.


There are a number of electric minibuses on the market, see picture below. They all have their own capabilities and limitations. For example, battery capacity varies and, in addition, batteries age reducing that capacity. There are also large differences in charging times and fast charging is more expensive. Some vehicles cannot be converted into a wheelchair minibus for wheelchair acccesible transport due to a high weight for example.

An fleet owner who is searching for 9-seater electric wheelchair bus can choose from 2 vehicles; The Volkswagen e-Crafter/ MAN E-TGE with 2 wheelchair places or a smaller vehicle with 1 wheelchair place. The latter vehicle is offered by several manufacturers under the brand labels e-Jumpy, Vivaro-E, ProAce and the E-Expert with a range of +-250 km. The Volkswagen e-Crafter has a limited range of +- 115 km.

Battery capacity 33 kWh
Renault ZE-Master

Battery capacity 35 kWh
Volkswagen e-Crafter

Battery capacity 47 kWh
Fiat e-Ducato

Battery capacity 47 kWh
Mercedes-Benz e-Sprinter

Battery capacity 67 kWh
Ford e-Transit

Battery capacity 70 kWh
Citroën e-Jumper
Peugeot e-Boxer
Opel e-Movano

Battery capacity 72 kWh
Maxus e-Deliver9


Early 2022, the Ford e-Transit will be launched with a range of +200 km according Ford. The Maxus e-Deliver also offers a good range. At Tribus, we are currently mapping out the weights and dimensions of these vehicles. Later this year we will determine if they are suitable for wheelchair conversions. Unfortunately, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter will not be released for passenger transport by the factory, perhaps this will change in 2023.

Other brands are also launching e-delivery buses, mostly, however, too heavy to be used as wheelchair buses. The first hydrogen wheelchair bus is also on the way. Together with Renault, Tribus has built a first hydrogen-electric low-floor bus that will be used by the Dutch company Stroomlijn for wheelchair accessible passenger transport in the city Drechtsteden. Unfortunately the bus weighs more than the allowed 3500 kg for M1 segment, so a bus driving license is required. Given the overall delivery problems worldwide, the first buses are expected by the end of 2022.

other reasons that impact the purchase of electrical minibuses 

The purchase of an electric wheelchair bus does not end with the purchase of a vehicle. There are several factors that influence the decision to drive zero emission. Prior to the purchase, for example, an enquiry must be conducted to realise a charging network. A charging network application for a single vehicle is often quickly realised, but when purchasing a new fleet this request often leads to a more difficult and time consuming application. It could envolve a transformer station that can be connected to the powergrid. These requests usually require a bit more time and in some cases prove to be impossible for the energy supplier.

Availability of zero emission wheelchair minibuses
Network coverage & sufficient (fast)charge or H2 gas station
Sufficiently long contract period for fleet owners
Insight in TCO

A glimpse into the future

We asked Erik about his vision of the future: ,,Since the climate agreement in Paris, European countries are determined to make the transition to zero emission public transport. With this new potential market for electric c.q. hydrogen, I believe many vehicles manufacturers will take on large and expensive development projects. A growth in numbers of electric vehicles is to be expected. Parallel are several factors that slow down or at least play a role in the transition to zero emission public transport. For example, a comprehensive refueling or fast charging network must be built and contract periods for operators must be at least 5-8 years to recover investments. At the same time, large fleet operators need full insight into the TCO, but with innovative products these kinds of figures are not immediately available. In short, we are on the right track but we don’t have a perfect solutions just yet.

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