Milton Keynes today launched the UK’s first all-electric bus route, with wireless charging touted as the key to its success.
Eight "StreetLite" buses will be used on the number seven route, running for 15 miles between Wolverton and Bletchley for 17 hours a day. This debut route will act as a trial for the next five years to judge the vehicles’ reliability compared to diesel-run buses.
eFleet Integrated Service – a joint venture from Mitsui & Co Europe and Arup – which is running the pilot with help from Milton Keynes Borough Council, WrightBus and Arriva, hopes to prove the buses can be cost-efficient and environmentally friendly.
John Miles, Arup consultant and engineering research professor at Cambridge University, tasked with tracking the buses’ performance, said: “These electric buses will be expected to do everything a diesel bus does, so they certainly won’t be getting any preferential treatment.”
“They will be operating on a demanding urban route, and that’s all part of the trial’s aim – to prove that electric buses can be tough as well as green.”
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The key to the design is wireless charging. Each bus is equipped with coils on the bottom, which when parked over primary coils in the road – covered by metal plates – transfers energy wirelessly to the bus’ battery.
There are two plates at the end of each route and just 10 minutes parked over one is capable of charging battery cells to replenish two thirds of what the bus used on its journey.
“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,” said Councillor John Bint, cabinet member for transport and highways. “Seeing all eight buses on the route will be a very proud moment for everyone who’s been involved.”
Drivers have spent the past two months training on the buses and are now ready to take passengers – almost 800,000 a year use the number seven route.
Hironobu Ishikawa, managing director of Mitsui & Co Europe, said: “We believe the electric bus is now a real contender in the near future of public transport. We’re confident that this demonstration project will show that economic and ecological priorities can co-exist, and our next goal is to expand this project to a commercial scale.”