Low carbon low down

LCV Cenex 2015 shows latest in low carbon technology

Every year, Millbrook plays host to the Low Carbon Vehicle (LCV) Cenex event, a showcase of the latest in environmentally friendly vehicles held by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnerhip (LowCVP).

Chris Peat attended this year’s edition to report on the innovations, equipment and projects most relevant to the bus and coach sector.


Perhaps one of the most immediately eye catching exhibits for a bus and coach operator would have been on the Magtec stand. A 1999 Dennis Trident double decker used on Transdev’s York City Sightseeing service was shown featuring Magtec’s battery electric drivetrain. The engineering firm exchanged the bus’s engine with this quiet, zero emission system last year and the vehicle has carried out an entire summer season ‘flawlessly’, according to Magtec MD, Marcus Jenkins. The business’s marketing documents say the refit will reduce operating costs by 85%, with a return on investment time given as four years.

Transdev’s Dennis Trident had 2,087kg of engine removed in the project, whilst the system added in weighed 1,863kg, reducing the unladen weight by 224kg. Not only is it being used on tours around York, it is also occasionally driven on trips over the Pennines, a journey Marcus reports it manages ‘quite nicely’. Its battery pack is modular, which means that if a greater range is required, more battery packs can be added.

A battery life cycle on Magtec’s systems depends a lot on what work it carries out and how often, according to Marcus. However, he gave a figure of five plus years, ‘more like ten’. He said there have been many stories of hybrid batteries failing, which he explained is due to the systems having a small battery that is worked hard. However, what makes his drive systems different is they use a large battery that experiences a lot less stress. He said, ‘The battery doesn’t even notice it is being used. There’s not even a cooling system needed on it, it may warm up by a degree, that’s all.’

When the batteries do reach the end of their lives, he said there has been an increase in the amount of opportunities for second lives for them. This avoids the problem of the environmentally friendly power unit having to be dumped immediately after use, affectively causing a pollutant. When the capacity of the batteries falls, Marcus said it can be put into another application, for instance as an energy buffer at wind farms or an energy pack for a hospital’s static backup energy storage system.

Transdev’s 1999 Dennis Trident repowered by Magtec to run on electricity

Transdev’s 1999 Dennis Trident repowered by Magtec to run on electricity

Artemis Intelligent Power

As well as electric, another alternative power option presented at LCV 2015 was that of hybrids. Artemis Intelligent Power displayed a hybrid system with a difference. The company has been developing hydraulic hybrid units designed to be more affordable, creating what the company believes is a real alternative to electric hybrids.

A 13 year old Dennis Dart Plaxton Pointer loaned from Lothian Buses was used to develop the parallel hybrid system. The technology assists with acceleration by reducing the load on the diesel engine. It has a 12-cylinder hydraulic pump motor, which is designed to be easier to maintain and, crucially, less expensive than conventional hybrid systems. It uses a set up called Digital Displacement, which involves controlling the output by digitally enabling individual cylinders on a stroke-by-stroke basis instead of varying the stroke mechanically. Each cylinder has electronically controlled digital valves, which are capable of changing state in few milliseconds. Each cylinder may be switched from idle, motoring or pumping cycles once every shaft revolution, in a pattern determined by an embedded controller.

According to Artemis, this more efficiently controlled system results in much faster and more accurate control response compared to variable-stroke machines. Over a typical duty cycle, the system has been shown to deliver a quarter of the energy losses of conventional machines. This should translate into significant energy costs savings, as well as reducing oil heating. A 27% fuel saving is advertised by the company, with a two to three year pay back.

Artemis formally finished the project in February this year and is now demonstrating what its system can do. The company is now developing its expertise in this area and is seeking an opportunity to have its technology used on the roads in real life conditions. Andrew Latham, Research and Development Engineer, would be keen to hear from anyone willing to trial this equipment in a fleet.

The hydraulic hybrid system from Artemis Intelligent Power

The hydraulic hybrid system from Artemis Intelligent Power

GKN Hybrid Power

Another hybrid system on show was from GKN Hybrid Power. Its Gyrodrive system uses flywheel technology, borrowing from existing equipment used in Formula One. It is a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), which converts braking energy to electricity, which is then used to charge the flywheel. When the driver accelerates, the system works in reverse, with the energy from the flywheel changed back to electricity to power the traction motor. According to the company, this should help boost power, save fuel and reduce emissions. It should also reduce the work done by the internal combustion engine, improving fuel economy by up to 25%.

Gyrodrive can be installed during build or retrofitted by GKN or its approved fitters. It can be used in a parallel or series hybrid, configured accordingly. On the company’s stand, there was a demonstration of where the system could be fitted, with a see through box containing the unit underneath a set of two bus seats.

Gyrodrive’s manufacturers say it is particularly suited to urban buses, due to their high mass and start stop nature. GKN believe it achieves the savings of hybrids at a much lower cost and weight than using the equivalent battery based hybrid systems.

GKN Hybrid Power’s Gyrodrive system

GKN Hybrid Power’s Gyrodrive system


It wasn’t all alternative drive systems on show, also of interest were electric charging points. eVolt was one supplier of this equipment, a company that has worked closely with Optare to roll out charging point networks for its electric buses. One instance of this is in York, with the introduction of four units for the city’s park and ride sites, served by electric Optare Versas operated by First. Its equipment has also been specified by Nottingham City Council for its electric Optares and in London.

eVolt provides its Rapid charge point for bus applications. This has a 50kW DC port for charging and is equipped with a 3G modem for communication to back office systems. It has a display screen with instructions for access, payment and operations, as well as the current charging status. Red, amber and green LED lights mean the charge status can be seen from a distance.

The Rapid charging unit from eVolt

The Rapid charging unit from eVolt


Electric buses can also be charged by the QC45 Rapid Charger from Siemens. The company claims it is capable of charging a vehicle from zero to 80% full capacity in less than 30 minutes. Each unit can be deployed to create a rapid charging infrastructure network. It is designed around the three core values of simplicity, durability and safety. Being able to simultaneously charge up to two vehicles, its output can be up to 50kW DC and user authentification protocols can be built in.


Another charge point provider at the show was ABB, which has the Terra multi-standard DC charging point 53 for PCV applications. Configurable for up to three charging outlets at 50kW, it is designed for en route charging. According to the company, it can charge a vehicle from 30% capacity to 80% in 15 minutes. Web modules are available for it for statistics and access management. The unit can be equipped with an integrated terminal to facilitate payment by credit card and NFC (Near Field Communication).

Zeta Automotive

The manufacturers of the EconoSpeed Connect acceleration control unit, Zeta Automotive, were having a good show. The company has successfully launched the product with its parent company, Arriva, throughout the UK and its other European operations. It is now in talks with other major players in the bus and coach market. Further recent developments include more work on giving the device even more back office applications. A trial is also being carried out in London using the company’s technology.


Cenex, a Centre of Excellence for low carbon technologies, was celebrating its tenth year in existence at the event. The not-for-profit consultancy specialises in the delivery of projects which support innovation and market development to accelerate the shift to a low carbon economy. To commemorate its milestone, Cenex has unveiled its Top 10 Reports, which are available at www.cenex.co.uk/top-10-reports/

A recent report published by the organisation is on the future deployment of environmentally friendly technology due to be introduced on public transport fleets in the next five to ten years. This shows what technology is being trialled, in development or is ready for deployment.


Also with a report out recently, ‘Energy Independent Vehicles 2016-2026’, was IDTechEX Research. The study argues that electric energy independent vehicles (EIVs) will be one of the most important megatrends this century as buying and delivering fuel becomes a thing of the past and a major source of global and local pollution is eliminated. It states that the end game with electric vehicles by land, water and air is for them to be energy independent. EIVs will create all their electricity from ambient energy such as light, wind, waves and tide. Go to www.idtechex.com/research/reports/energy-independent-vehicles-2016-2026-000446.asp to download the report.

Influx Technology

Influx Technologies showed some of its vehicle monitoring equipment. Its products are used to harvest engineering data, to which end it is capable of linking in with a bus or coach’s CANbus system, turbo or valves, amongst other parts. It is not just the hardware it provides, but the software too, with systems available to ensure the correct data intake from the ECU.


SPAL UK displayed its cooling systems. The company has an array of electric cooling systems in various bus and coach applications. These, according to MD, Matthew Morris, can save a great deal of fuel compared to previous hydraulic versions. It also now has 850watt brushless motors available for fans.

Optare wins

During LCV 2015, LowCVP announced the Low Carbon Champions for 2014-15. The Champions Awards celebrate achievement and innovation in low carbon road transport. TV personality Robert Llewellyn was Master of Ceremonies, presenting the Awards at the Double Tree by Hilton, MK Dons Stadium. Optare received the ‘Grand Prix’ award for Outstanding Achievement in Low Carbon Transport.

Optare collect the Low Carbon Champions for 2014-15 award

Optare collect the Low Carbon Champions for 2014-15 award

The judges of the awards said, ‘Optare has a real pedigree in terms of battery innovation and has worked extremely well in building partnerships with local authorities. Optare is the UK market leader in the production of electric buses – a sector in which the UK has been amongst the world’s leaders. We were impressed by the multi-faceted approach taken by this company to lowering carbon emissions.’

Optare and Scania were joint winners of the Low Carbon Heavy Duty Vehicle Manufacturer of the Year Award. The judges decided to award both companies as their entries covered activities in different market sectors (Optare for buses and Scania for trucks and delivery vehicles).  Shortlisted in this section was BYD Europe B.V and Leyland Trucks.

Other winners from the bus and coach industry in the awards included Dundee City Council, who won the Low Carbon Vehicle Operator of the Year. The runner up in this category were FirstBus with City of York and also short listed was Reading Buses. On Dundee City Council, the judges said, ‘Dundee City Council has put into practice what they preach using alternative fuel technologies and encouraging other cities to do the same. Dundee has demonstrated a strategic approach to both fleet and infrastructure and carefully thought about perceptions and users’ experience.’

Avid Technology was one of the joint winners of the 2015 Award for Low Carbon Innovation by an SME. Low Carbon Road Transport Initiative of the Year went to GENeco Bio-Bus, thought to be the only vehicle in the UK fuelled by biomethane gas produced from a mixture of food waste, commercial liquid waste and domestic sewage.

And finally..

It is heartening to note the significantly high number of winners from the bus and coach industry in the awards. It is evidence that the developments and innovations in green technology for the market are being taken to heart, and are starting to deliver.

The outside section of LCV Cenex 2015

The outside section of LCV Cenex 2015


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