Home Business Conductors are back! Fleet of London buses gets ‘world-first’ rapid charging tech

Conductors are back! Fleet of London buses gets ‘world-first’ rapid charging tech

Conductors are back! Fleet of London buses gets ‘world-first’ rapid charging tech


fleet of electric buses has been fitted with new technology that allows train-style pantographs to deliver rapid charges to keep them running through the day.

The 18 double deckers on route 132 call in to Bexleyheath bus garage for a 10-minute top-up – delivered by the metal arm-like device that descends to connect with a power receiver on the bus roof – to boost the conventional “slow” charge received overnight.

It is the first time this technology – known as an inverted pantograph – has been used in the UK, and possibly the world, according to bus company Go-Ahead.

However, Standard readers later got in touch to say that similar technology has been seen in Lieden, in south Holland.

Unlike trains or old-fashioned trolley buses, the pantograph arm lowers down onto the bus, rather than being attached to the bus roof and raising to connect with a power source.

The buses cost about £400,000 to £450,000 each, about 40 per cent more than a conventional diesel or hybrid double decker.

Transport for London says the lower cost of electricity means the running costs will be lower over the typical seven-year lifetime of each bus route contract.

TfL also hopes the roll-out of electric buses will attract passengers for whom the “green credentials” of how they travel matters.

Bus driver Kelly Myatt said the electric buses were so quiet that passengers often nodded off. “Quite often I look in the mirror and there are a few people asleep,” she said.

“They’ll ask: ‘Are we here already?’ I say: ‘Yes, last stop. This bus does terminate here.’”

She added: “They are a pleasure to drive. I havbe been driving buses on and off for 25 years. compared to the first bus I drove in service, which was a Routemaster, it’s smooth. It’s a very nice, comfortable drive.”

Similar units are due to be rolled out to the 358 bus next year, when pantographs will be installed at either end of the 15-mile route linking Crystal Palace and Orpington, one of the longest in the capital – repeatedly charging the new single deckers throughout the day.

The RFID technology enables the bus to “communicate” with the pantograph – allowing the driver to control the high-power charging procedure from his or her cab.

A top-up, known as “opportunity charging”, allows each bus to complete more than 150 miles a day. Keeping the same bus on the road for longer means fewer vehicles are needed to operate the route.

The route 132 buses, which use an iron-phosphate battery, run between North Greenwich and Bexleyheath shopping centre.

They also use cameras rather than wing mirrors to detect nearby pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles. Clear images are beamed to the driver’s cab.

More than 850 of the capital’s 8,500 buses are zero emission, with the aim of converting the entire fleet to “green” power by 2034.

The use of battery-powered buses presents a logistical problem to Transport for London as not all vehicles can remain on the road all day without a booster charge.

They have been running on route 132 for a couple of months but the formal media launch was delayed while TfL was locked in funding negotiations with the Government over its final covid bailout.

Seb Dance, the deputy mayor for transport, said: “The introduction of the pantograph builds on the progress we have already made to run a cleaner and greener bus service. Transforming London’s bus fleet is an important part of the Mayor’s target of getting London to net zero by 2030.”

Last year, TfL launched 20 double decker hydrogen buses on routes 7 and 245, to test longer range technology in the urban environment.The 20 new “ieTram” buses on the 358 route will resemble a tram, with enhanced on-board and safety features. They will also be fitted with a pantograph.

Louise Cheeseman, TfL’s director of bus, said: “The threats of toxic air, climate change and congestion are becoming clearer every day, and it’s vital that we find technical solutions that help us run clean, green services that get Londoners where they need to be.

“When buses can travel further each day, as they do with this exciting pantograph technology, we can deliver the same service that Londoners rely on without increasing the number of buses and invest in other routes.

“The installation of the rapid pantograph charging for route 132 is a key step to help us get zero-emission buses running on routes all across London.”

John Trayner, Go-Ahead London’s managing director, said: “Route 132 is the latest in a long line of pioneering zero emission firsts for Go-Ahead London.

“We have extended vehicle range by harnessing technology, in the process reducing the overall number of buses required to provide service and delivering significant cost savings.

“The vehicles have been well received by our passengers and they are helping to improve air quality for local residents.”

The route 132 buses are designed in partnership with a Chinese firm BYD, which builds the vehicle chassis, and assembled by ADL (Alexander Dennis Ltd) in Yorkshire and Scotland.

EO Charging, a Suffolk-based firm, installed the charging infrastructure at Bexleyheath bus garage.



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