FirstBus spearheads testing of latest bus technology

25 August 2016  •  Author(s): Katie Sadler, Digital Content Producer, Eurotransport

FirstBus has triggered the race to develop the latest bus technology in its pursuit to operate cleaner, more fuel efficient vehicles in the UK.

FirstBus spearheads testing of latest bus technology

Vehicle manufacturers such as Wrightbus, ADL and Optare have been putting their latest bus technology products through First Bus’ testing programme at Millbrook Proving Ground, a specially designed vehicle testing facility in Bedfordshire.

Trialled bus technology aims for 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency and carbon emissions

The annual event, launched in 2012, has helped improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles by 30 percent and reduced vehicle carbon emissions by 30 percent. FirstBus hopes this will continue and aims for a further 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency and carbon emissions at this year’s event during the month of August.

FirstBus states the results of the testing programme will play a major part in its vehicle procurement strategy.


Using a testing procedure developed by First Bus and Millbrook’s engineers, vehicles are put thought their paces on a course that is meticulously designed to reflect a variety of rural, urban and interurban bus routes. The buses are hooked up to sophisticated equipment to monitor many aspects of performance. They undergo maximum speed and acceleration tests and are subjected to extreme 25 percent gradients to ensure they meet some of the more demanding requirements of real world operations.

Tests replicate the driving pattern of a bus on an average working day

To replicate the driving pattern of a bus on an average working day, vehicles follow a route featuring hills, junctions, roundabouts and numerous bus stops. The buses travel at a range of pre-defined speeds and spend a proportion of the test idling to simulate passengers boarding at bus stops, just as it typically would while in service. Vehicles are weighted with ballast to replicate passengers.

In achieving 30% reduction in carbon emissions and 30% improvement in fuel efficiency, a number of initiatives and technologies have been put in place. In addition to the reduction of the weight of vehicles and optimisation of engine and transmission configuration, a number of systems on vehicles now capture energy that would otherwise be lost during braking in order to power vehicle electric and air systems.  More recently the process has led to development of Stop/Start technology for buses – when stationary at bus stops the vehicle automatically switches off, saving fuel and emissions and then restarts once the driver closes the doors and is ready to accelerate.

“The improvements to vehicle performance that our annual competition has inspired have wide ranging benefits not just for First Bus, but the industry as a whole”

Commenting on the bus technology trials, Giles Fearnley, Managing Director of First Bus said: “We know it makes sound business sense as well as good environmental sense to pioneer the introduction of lower carbon and lower emission technologies. As well as making the communities we serve cleaner and greener for the future, we’re seeing great fuel efficiency benefits which are helping us ensure that bus travel remains good value for money for our customers.

“The improvements to vehicle performance that our annual competition has inspired have wide ranging benefits not just for First Bus, but the industry as a whole.  Bus operators across the UK are benefiting from vehicles that are more fuel efficient, while the wider environment is benefiting from buses that emit significantly less carbon.  I am immensely proud that we are leading the industry on this agenda.”

Alex Burns, CEO of Millbrook Group added: “The work that Millbrook undertakes with First Bus is very valuable. The testing and like for like comparisons between vehicles are helping to drive the development of greener public transport, which has real benefits for the environment and creates cost–savings that ultimately benefit consumers. Millbrook is uniquely able to provide the testing environment and expertise required by First Bus.”

Our engineers have worked around the clock to devise and implement industry leading improvements to vehicle design and in particular fuel efficiency. I am proud to say that each year we have led the field, though in such a highly competitive environment we can never be complacent. The First Bus tests really are driving significant change in vehicle design, and bringing out the best from innovative UK manufacturers.”

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2 responses to “FirstBus spearheads testing of latest bus technology”

  1. Jorge Fonseca Nabais says:

    It is very interesting the subject of this article.

    I would appreciate if you send me the email of the Millbrook responsible for this project.

    Thank you. Best regards

    J. Nabais / Bus Technical Director

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