The United Kingdom’s first all-electric bus route started running in Milton Keynes in January and will be closely monitored over a five-year period to test the effectiveness of an electric system against diesel.
The eight electric buses run 17 hours a day and seven days each week to cover approximately 56,000 miles a year. Paul Adcock, Area Managing Director of public transport company Arriva, says: “Electric buses have huge potential, and we’re exploring how they can help us take better care of the environment without compromising passenger service.”
In order to maintain the same service schedule as diesel buses, the buses charge overnight and receive charges throughout the day from wire coils buried beneath the road. Through a process called inductive charging, parking a bus over a charging plate for 10 minutes replenishes two-thirds of the energy needed to run its 15-mile route.
“Electric buses’ physical and economic potential has historically been sidelined because no one could see around the range problem associated with the batteries,” says John Miles, director of the Milton Keynes electric bus program. According to global engineering firm Arup, Miles has a plan to combat this issue: “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.”
The buses are projected to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 270 tons each year. The amount of CO2 savings could increase to about 680 tons annually as the U.K. moves toward greener energy and the electric bus system continues.
Counselor John Bint, Cabinet Member for Transport and Highways, explains to BBC News: “This electric bus trial is the result of over a year's careful planning, so getting bus drivers behind the wheel is a wonderful milestone to reach. Seeing all eight buses on the route will be a very proud moment for everyone who's been involved.”