Minister of State for Transport launches world’s most demanding electric bus route

9 January 2014  •  Author(s): Arriva

Leading transport operator Arriva is celebrating the official launch of a ground-breaking transport project that sees it operate the first electric wirelessly-charged buses in the UK.

Baroness Kramer, the Minister of State for Transport, today (9 January) officially launched an all-electric bus route that will test whether electric buses can perform on a par with their diesel counterparts in a real-world operational environment.

The buses operating on Arriva the Shires’ route 7 will run for five years in a carefully monitored demonstration programme, which will objectively assess their technical and commercial viability.

Eight electric buses will take over a route that even diesel buses find demanding: running 17 hours a day, seven days a week, with each bus covering over 56,000 miles per year. However, the Milton Keynes buses have a special technological advantage to help them meet the rigours of their route: wireless charging.

Instead of plugging into the mains, the new buses will be able to recharge their batteries wirelessly during their working day. This means they can run a continuous service for a whole 17 hours, just like a diesel bus.

The concept is simple: wireless charging plates set into the road transfer power directly to receiving plates underneath the bus, using a technique based on the principles of electrical induction. In just 10 minutes, a bus parked over a charging point will replenish two-thirds of the energy consumed on Arriva’s 15-mile route.

Only two wireless charging points are needed to service all eight buses, which will charge in the time scheduled for breaks for Arriva’s drivers.

The eight electric buses have important environmental benefits: they will remove approximately five tonnes of particulates and noxious tailpipe emissions from the city’s streets each year and approximately 270 tonnes of CO2 per year from the atmosphere.

As the UK electricity supply becomes greener in future years, the CO2 savings from the continuing operation of electric buses on this route could increase to more than 680 tonnes per year.

The trial is an innovative collaboration between forward-thinking organisations*, led by eFleet Integrated Service (“eFIS”), an enabling company set up by Mitsui & Co. Europe (“Mitsui”) and design engineering consultancy Arup. The trial, supported by Milton Keynes Borough Council and the Department for Transport, aims to prove that low-carbon transport can be a cost-effective and efficient alternative to traditional diesel and petrol vehicles. The trial will be managed by Mitsui-Arup joint venture MBK Arup Sustainable Projects (MASP).

Baroness Kramer, Minister of State for Transport, said: “I am delighted to be here in Milton Keynes today at the launch of the first electric wirelessly-charged buses in the UK.

“These ultra low emission buses will offer the travelling public a quieter, smoother journey as well as cutting carbon and improving air quality. This project represents a fantastic opportunity to learn more about extending the future capability and rollout of electric buses.”

Professor John Miles of Cambridge University, an Arup consultant and director of the Milton Keynes electric bus programme said: “Electric buses’ physical and economic potential has historically been sidelined because no one could see around the range problem associated with the batteries. Wireless charging can bring electric buses in from the cold, and potentially put them neck-and-neck with their diesel counterparts. If we can demonstrate true parity with diesel buses during this trial, we’ll have reached a tipping point for low-carbon transport – we’ll have proved it can be cost-effective as well as green.”

Paul Adcock, Area MD of Arriva the Shires, said: “We are very excited to be involved in this project and our team in Milton Keynes is especially proud to have been chosen.

“We look forward to welcoming our customers on board and will be working very hard to promote the environmental benefits of the vehicles and to attracting more people to use them.”

Milton Keynes Cllr Andrew Geary, Leader of the Council, said: “Bus passengers in Milton Keynes will now be able to enjoy quieter, cleaner journeys on Route 7. A shift to greener modes of transport benefits the whole city and could in turn provide a template for other councils to use. Route 7 buses carry nearly 800,000 passengers each year, so it’s the perfect way to really put electric buses through their paces.”

The ultimate aim of eFIS is to use the data collected by the Milton Keynes trial to demonstrate the technical and economic viability of low-carbon public transport. This data could be used to kick-start electric bus projects in other towns and cities worldwide.

The new timetable, operated by Arriva, will start on 19 January 2014.

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