First all electric buses hit the streets of London

In mid-December 2013 the first all-electric buses arrived on London’s streets, to be joined by many more if the trial period shows them meeting expectations. The two starter buses will be serving routes 507 and 521, between Victoria, Waterloo and London Bridge stations, in the busiest areas of the city.

Built by the Chinese company BYD Auto Ltd, these vehicles are reportedly capable of travelling 250k on a full charge (four to five hours), so they should be able to run for a full day on these routes without additional charging. According to the manufacturer’s tests, the operating cost will be about 25% of what it costs to operate a diesel bus, and tail pipe emissions will be cut to zero.

The trial is part of a much larger scheme to clean up London’s air; the 12-metre single-deck electric buses will be joining a fleet of hybrid and hydrogen buses already in use, part of the “cleaner and greener” transport system envisioned by London’s Mayor. Early this year another six all electric buses are scheduled to join the Transport for London fleet, two funded from TfL’s technology demonstration budget and four paid for by the Department of Transportation’s Green Bus Fund.

London is also involved in competition with several other European cities to win partnership funding for trials of electric and hybrid technologies. The Mayor’s senior environment and energy advisor, Matthew Pencharz, said that these electric buses, alongside the other low-and no-emission technologies in use, can help the city reach its goals of improved air quality.

London is already trialling a fleet of 120 buses that run on used cooking oil, and about 600 hybrid buses are also in operation. The reported goal is to have a fifth of the TfL fleet (or about 1700 buses) replaced by hybrids by the end of 2016. Mayor Johnson wants the city to be at the forefront of green technology in terms of transport, though critics are still questioning the costs involved.