La Spezia and Magenta the first Italian cities to use bioethanol in bus fleet.

By News Editor / Updated: 29 Aug 2014

In La Spezia?s public transport service three ethanol-fuelled buses (since 2007) and one ethanol filling station are in operation. ATC - the public transport provider - is the first Italian company using bioethanol in public transport.In another Italian city, Magenta, the local public transport company Atinom S.p.A. also decided to introduce ethanol-fuelled buses in PT (in October 2009).

Background & Objectives

The local public transport operator of La Spezia is partner in the BEST project (Bio-Ethanol for Sustainable Transport). Aim of the project is the introduction of bio-ethanol-powered buses and the development of a draft standard for ethanol bus engines taking into account the experiences gained in the BEST project.


In all participating countries except for Sweden operation and demonstration of ethanol buses have met many problems initially:

  • lack of regulations,
  • technical issues and
  • fuel taxes making the costs for driving on bioethanol unfavourable (in Italy the fuel tax for ethanol is equal to that of diesel fuel).

One of the main problems by introducing bio-ethanol is the taxation. Ethanol has nearly the same taxes as diesel, but the engines need a much higher volume of ethanol than on diesel. Thus tax relief or exemption for the ethanol are essential, otherwise fuel costs will increase substantially and are not affordable by PT operators.

In the course of the project these obstacles could partly be overcome making it easier for follower in the paticipating countries to successfully introduce bioethanol buses as well. All necessary rules and regulations had to get in place before the buses could start running. In this process one of the most important steps was to contact the local authorities as early as possible.

Due to the lover energy content in ethanol ethanol vehicle generally need about 60 percent more fuel than comparable diesel vehicles (compared by volume). Thus tax relief or exemption for the ethanol are essential, otherwise fuel costs will increase substantially.

Since beginning of 2007 ATC operates three ethanol buses in the public transport line Sarzana -Lerici . The Buses use E95 bioethanol: 95% of ethanol from agricultural materials and 5% of additives. The bioethanol filling station is situated in the ATC depot and was newly build as part of the project. The Ethanol project additionally was extended to the local municipalities which use flex fuel cars running on E85.

The buses
The ethanol buses are standard Scania Omni buses with a 9 litres Scania compression-ignition engine. They are slightly modified to operate on E95 bioethanol bus fuel. This bus type has been used for more than 15 years in Stockholm in regular full-scale operation in tough city conditions. After this long time Stockholm Transport considers it a fully proven bus technology. The buses themselves are completely standard, using regular Scania components.

Important for bus operators is the lack of operational drawbacks as long as the scheduled maintenance requirements are followed.


The main reasons to choose bioethanol are connected to intended reductions of exhaust gas emissions and oil dependency, and, above all, the realization of sustainable public transport service.

Following the positive experience of La Spezia the public transport company Atinom S.p.A. in the city of Magenta decided to run two bioethanol buses as well. The two bioethanol buses run along the red line in the city centre since begin of October 2007.

La Spezia is still operating the buses (11/2010), in Magenta the company will be stopping operation.

The final report about ethanol buses gives advice on how to proceed to get the necessary permissions for the operation of bioethanol buses in place, as well as more information on applicable standards and regulations.

More Information

BEST-project reports

Clean and energy-efficient vehicles
Stefano Capaccioli
Simona Taborelli
drive train – internal combustion engine modified
fuels – liquid regenerative
reduction – air pollutants - ICE internal measures
reduction – greenhouse gases
vehicle conversion
24 Oct 2007
29 Aug 2014