Oxford to get huge charging hub

Go-Ahead Groups’ Oxford Bus Company has teamed up with Zenobē to build one of the UK’s biggest charging depots as it gears up for electrification

The Go-Ahead Group has commenced work to install one of the biggest electric charging hubs in the UK at the depot of its Oxford Bus Company operation. Zenobē, the fleet electrification specialist, has begun work to install extensive charging infrastructure at Cowley House.

The 104 charging points, each offering 150kW of DC power, are being installed ahead of Oxford Bus Company receiving the first delivery of electric buses later this year. The hub will be supplied by an 8 megaWatt (MW) electrical connection, which will provide enough electricity to charge all 104 buses, enough for each bus to drive over 170 miles per day.

With co-funding from Go Ahead Group, Oxfordshire County Council and the Department for Transport’s Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme, Oxford Bus Company has ordered 104 new electric buses to begin arriving on Oxford’s streets from late 2023.

A consortium of bus operators including the Oxford Bus Company pledged £43.7m towards the scheme, the government committed £32.8m and Oxfordshire County Council £6m. In total the combined investment will result in 159 new battery electric buses serving Oxford. Oxfordshire was one of only 12 local authorities to successfully apply for ZEBRA funding and is one of the biggest schemes in the country.

Luke Marion

Luke Marion, Oxford Bus Company Managing Director, said: “This is another exciting step forward in our extensive infrastructure scope of works in preparation for transforming our city services to electric. Partnering with Zenobē ensures we will receive the best-in-class advice and technology to fully equip us with a market leading charging solution that meets our needs.

“We’re looking forward to introducing the first tranche of electric buses later in the year, which will help improve air quality and make bus travel an even more attractive option for people to travel around Oxford.”

The Oxford Bus Company’s owner, Go-Ahead, has pledged to convert its 5,500-strong bus fleet nationwide to zero emission energy. Christian Schreyer, Group Chief Executive, said: “Customers in Oxford can look forward to clean, green, comfortable buses when this work is complete. This is a great example of bus operators working in partnership with local and national government to deliver zero-emission transport.”

The commencement of works is the latest stage in the ambitious urban decarbonisation project, Energy Superhub Oxford. The four-year project has seen innovations such as the creation of a first-of-a-kind battery storage system, a high-power private wire charging network and an electric vehicle (EV) charging hub at Redbridge Park & Ride.

To enable the buses to charge overnight, depot charging infrastructure being installed by Zenobē will be powered by an EDF Renewables UK substation at Oxford Bus Company’s Watlington Road depot.

Steven Meersman, Zenobe

Steven Meersman, Co-Founder Director of Zenobē, said: “This is a flagship project for Zenobē. It is an example of what an ambitious operator can do with a strong vision and local support.  We have worked on more than 50 electrification projects globally and this one stands out for its scale and for the level of collaboration with other operators and government.  It has been great collaborating with Luke Marion and his team: we are happy to have started work and are looking forward to seeing the first buses on the road later this year.”

In 2020 Oxford Bus Company introduced the first double deck electric bus to Oxford via its City Sightseeing Oxford fleet. It now has three retrofitted electric vehicles in its fleet, which were delivered in partnership with Oxford City Council.

The arrival of the fleet of electric buses is expected to support a further drop in NOx levels to help clean up Oxford’s air pollution as part of wider aims for Oxfordshire to become a net carbon zero county by 2025.

All the new buses are being manufactured in the UK and are expected to arrive by June 2024. The Go-Ahead Group is an international provider of public transport services, and its Oxford division includes Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel, City Sightseeing Oxford, Carousel Buses and Pulhams Coaches.

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