The country’s first all-electric bus route has been officially launched in Milton Keynes today (Thursday).
The scheme is designed to test whether or not electric buses can perform on a par with their diesel counterparts in a real-world operational environment.
The buses 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 the number 7 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 10 minutes, a bus parked over a charging point will replenish two-thirds of the energy consumed on its 15-mile route between Wolverton and Bletchley, taking in Central Milton Keynes.
There are just two wireless charging points to service all eight buses, which will charge in the time scheduled for driver breaks.
Councillor Andrew Geary, leader of Milton Keynes Council, said: “Bus passengers in Milton Keynes will now be able to enjoy quieter, cleaner journeys.
“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 eight electric buses have 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.
The trial is an innovative free-market collaboration led by eFleet Integrated Service – an enabling company set up by Mitsui & Co Europe – and design engineering consultancy Arup.
Supported by Milton Keynes Council and the Department for Transport, the trial aims to prove that low-carbon transport can be a cost-effective and efficient alternative to traditional diesel and petrol vehicles.