Volvo electrics launch in Manchester

Mayor of Greater Manchester launches trial of Volvo’s all electric bus on Metroshuttle 2

Friday was a busy day in transport for Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. Alongside railway matters and launching his public consultation on congestion in the region, “The Greater Manchester Congestion Conversation”, he joined Volvo, TfGM, ABB and First Manchester to launch the UK public service demonstration of Volvo’s 7900e electric bus with OppCharge facility.

The first right hand drive fully electric Volvo 7900e arrived in the UK in Spring 2017 and was unveiled to the industry during Volvo’s “Electric Avenue” event at Donington Park in July. To London specification, the 12m vehicle has 35 seats, space for up to 47 standees and a centre doorway that will not be used during operation in Manchester. A 160kW electric motor drives the ZF AV132 rear axle through a two-speed gearbox. Intended for regular in-service charging, the onboard battery capacity at 76kWh minimises the overall vehicle weight (see Bus and Coach Buyer 1438, 14 July 2017, for further details of the vehicle).

Volvo Bus has invested in a stand-alone, portable mast based top-down charging station from ABB and leased a generator from Volvo’s Penta organisation capable of delivering electricity at the power level required, negating the need for a connection to the national grid. For the Manchester demonstration, the mast has been placed at one of the unloading bays in Shudehill bus station, the generator set and fuel tank is opposite, away from occupied buildings with a conveniently situated car park access bridge providing a safe route for the cabling between the two. The charging station was installed in an overnight property between the station’s final departure and first arrival.

Digital technology enables the generator set to recognise when the 7900e is approaching and start up in preparation, meaning the charging process time can be minimised. Such digitisation was identified as a key element of the trial by UK Managing Director of ABB, Ian Funnel in his introductory remarks: “This is not just the start of electric transportation but also the start of digital transportation. The information we will get from the buses and infrastructure will enable operators to understand how to organise and manage mass transportation in cities.”

Metroshuttle 2 runs in an arc around the north of Manchester’s city centre and is operated for TfGM by First Manchester . . . although not the terminus, Shudehill at the midpoint of the route was chosen for the charging point as it is a TfGM site unlike the Piccadilly Station terminus. The route is normally operated by smaller diesel-electric hybrid Optare vehicles although the Metroshuttle network, like its Centrelink predecessors, is no stranger to overnight charged electric vehicles. Currently, three fully electric Optare Versas are part of the run out on Metroshuttle 1. The 7900e is longer than the Versas but the driver familiarisation programme undertaken by First Manchester proved that this was not an issue in everyday operation. The bus retains its Volvo electromobility green livery to which vinyls have been added for the ten-minute frequency free route together with messages regarding its contribution to air quality in Manchester.

Recognising the significance of the first UK demonstration of its Electromobility concept, Volvo Bus Senior Vice President, Ulf Magnusson, joined Volvo Bus UK MD, Nick Page to welcome guests at the launch. Ulf praised Greater Manchester’s commitment to the concept: “We are driving a concept for the smart cities of the world, cities that take congestion, air pollution and noise pollution seriously and I think that Manchester is a good example of a city that really would like to take a step forward in this direction.”

Following the launch and a short demonstration journey around the city centre, Andy Burnham spoke to the press, restating his vision for bus services in Greater Manchester: “We are clear on what we want; we need a much higher quality, more affordable, more accessible bus network that provides a bus service to all parts of Greater Manchester not the free for all we have now. We are open minded on how this can best be achieved but make no mistake we are going to improve the bus network.”

Asked about Greater Manchester’s commitment to bus electrification, he saw the region taking a lead with the demonstration being the first step: “Manchester has been first with many things in its history and this is an innovation that in the end, I think, will be countrywide. We want not just to have one and are already talking to TfGM about bringing through a number, particularly on to the Leigh guided busway which I know very well. We want to see this expand and we will be working with Volvo and the other partners to make this happen.”

The 7900e trial in Manchester is intended to last eight weeks after which the vehicle and charging installation will move on to other cities including Leeds. The Volvo Electromobility concept has already been chosen by Transdev Blazefield for the local service network in Harrogate and is due for commissioning in early 2018.


(l to r) Managing Director First Manchester, Phil Medlicott; Chief Operating Officer TfGM, Bob Morris; Managing Director ABB in the UK, Ian Funnel; Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham and Senior Vice President Volvo Bus, Ulf Magnusson mark the commencement of the Volvo 7900e trial


In service on Metroshuttle 2 at the Deansgate-Castlefield interchange with Metrolink


The temporary generator installed in an area of the bus station screened from surrounding buildings


Recharging from the portable charging mast in one of the unloading bays at Shudehill bus station


Departing from Piccadilly station on the first public journey following the formal launch

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