Induction charged electric Streetlites launched in Milton Keynes
In what the companies involved believe is the first project of its scale anywhere, Arriva The Shires is to operate eight fully electric Wheel Forward Wrightbus Streetlite EVs in service in Milton Keynes. The buses will be charged using an induction system with recharging pads at each end of the 15 mile route 7 between Bletchley and Wolverton via the city centre area of Milton Keynes.
The aims of the five year trial are to demonstrate that a fleet of electric buses can be practical and affordable; matching their diesel counterparts for endurance and cost efficiency. The trial will test the wireless recharging systems in a tough real life scenario, analyse the economic and technical performance of the buses on a challenging urban route, explore the ability of electric buses to deliver the equivalent workload of diesel bus counterparts and provide analytical data to use when planning future electric bus projects.
The 7 service is currently operated by Optare Solos and runs 17 hours a day (06.00-23.00), seven days a week. In a full year it is expected that 775,000 people will be carried at the relatively high average speed of 16.3mph. Each bus is expected to cover 56,250 miles annually and the entire batch will achieve approximately 450,000 miles. The vehicles are based at Milton Keynes depot which has a total allocation of 75.
Part of the funding for the project has come from the third round of the Government’s Green Bus Fund scheme in which Milton Keynes Council was awarded £640,000 towards the cost of acquiring the vehicles.
Speaking at the launch, at the Campbell Park Pavilion, Campbell Park, Milton Keynes, Baroness Kramer, Secretary of State for Transport, said that, ‘People want greener buses, buses that will meet climate change targets, that will not pollute and are good for air pollution. A more attractive and greener bus network encourages more passengers, it cuts carbon and it helps us create economic growth. That’s why we are interested in new greener technology through our green bus fund. Through the fund we are encouraging the take up of low carbon buses, that is why the coalition Government is funding the bus industry.’ She hoped the Milton Keynes experience, ‘would help kick start electric bus projects in towns and cities, both in the UK and worldwide.’
She then added, ‘The Government remains committed to improving bus services and expenditure on buses reflects this. This year the Government has spent over £1bn on the concessionary travel entitlement, over £340m in direct subsidy to bus operators in England, over £300m has been allocated to funding major bus projects in the last year, we have provided £70m through the better bus area fund to deliver improvements in 24 local authorities, and £20m to support community transport. Many bus improvement schemes have also been funded as part of the £600m Local Sustainable Transport Fund.’
Councillor Andrew Geary, Leader of Milton Keynes Council, said that since taking on the role he had lost count of the number of times he had said ‘this is a historic day for our city’ but the fact remained that it was. He recognised that the project could not have been undertaken without a large number of partnerships. He believed the reason that Milton Keynes had achieved becoming the first place in the UK to trial these electric buses was that it has a good history of being able to work in partnership with different organisations. He claimed it was also good at leading. Both public transport and low carbon were a high priority on the Council’s agenda.
Noboru Katsu, Operating Officer for Mitsui & Co Europe, said that his business had been established in Japan as a trading company over 130 years ago and now had offices in 147 countries. Its UK office in London had been set up as long ago as 1880. As a responsible corporate citizen it recognised that carbon reduction and energy efficiency are uppermost on today’s global agenda and that the UK is the forefront of many of these developments. The partnership it had set up with ARUP was aimed specifically at jointly finding solutions to these significant challenges. The EV bus demonstration project using wireless charging was the first fruit of this collaboration. Though it was on a limited scale, it was in the intention to increase in size and scope, not only in Milton Keynes but involving other local authorities. He believed the electric bus was now a real contender in the passenger transport sector and was confident that financial and ecological priorities could co-exist. The next goal would be to expand the project to a commercial scale and the company was fortunate to be partnering with strong partners.
Last to speak in the launch presentation was Professor John Miles of the University of Cambridge, a director of the Milton Keynes electric bus programme and a consultant with Arup, who called for a lot more VAT as it had been crucial to the enterprise led project. The VAT to which he referred was the combination of Vision, Attitude and Trade. Praising the many partners he said Milton Keynes was a visionary place, though he also admitted that their had been difficulties on the way including ‘near death experiences.’
‘We’re all very excited today but this is just the beginning of the road, not the end of the road. We’ve got a lot of tough challenges ahead over the next five years. We will have difficulties and we will have snags, so we need lots more VAT. With continued vision and lots more attitude we will overcome those difficulties. You will see British buses in a British city doing something that no-one else has done anywhere else in the world.’
He also commented, ‘Electric buses’ physical and economic potential has historically been sidelined because no one could see around the range problem associated with 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.’
There are a large number of organisations and companies involved in the project, indeed the backcloth to the speeches was like those used during the player and manager interviews at football matches. Apart from the unitary Milton Keynes Council, the team sheet included (alphabetically): Arriva, which will operate the buses; ARUP, which provides technical and business services in connection with built environment developments; Chargemaster, an electric vehicle charging solution provider; efis, a joint venture between ARUP and Mitsui set up to enable the cost effective operation of low-carbon transport schemes and the enabling company at the centre of the Milton Keynes project; iPT technology, a leading supplier of mobile energy supply and data transmission systems; masp, a joint venture company between ARUP and Mitsui to develop low carbon projects worldwide; Mitsui & Co Europe Plc, a large Japanese conglomerate that is leading the project through the efis joint venture which owns assets including EV buses and charging units; SSE, an energy generation, transmission, distribution and supply company; Western Power Distribution, the electricity distribution network operator for the Midlands, South Wales and the South West; and last but by no means least, Wrightbus, the Northern Ireland based vehicle manufacturer.