Eight experimental electric buses will be operating in Milton Keynes from late January onwards. The fleet will begin operating along the busy Number 7 route, which covers the 15 miles between Wolverton and Bletchley. They are the first electric buses to operate in the UK.
UK-based bus manufacturer Wrightbus have built these new electric buses in conjunction with Japanese company Mitsui and UK engineering group Arup.
Wireless ‘booster’ plates in the road, placed at the beginning/end of the route, give the buses a charge that allows them to operate for a full day. They are then charged overnight at the bus depot.
The buses will need to stop over the booster plates, before lowering the bus’ own receiver plates and resting there for 10 minutes’ charge time. The journey will then resume, exactly the same way a regular bus ride does.
The process is called ‘inductive charging’ and it involves electricity passing though wire coils in the plates that creates a magnetic field. The field then shares its voltage with the bus’ receiver plates, charging them up.
Similar electric bus trials are being implemented in Italy, the Netherlands and Germany. In 2013, South Korea unveiled a 7.5-mile stretch of road, which recharges electric vehicles as they drive over it, without requiring any charge time at all.
In an interview with the BBC, John Bint of Milton Keynes Council said, “Electric buses have huge potential and we’re exploring how they can help us take better care of the environment without compromising passenger service,”
If these trial models prove to be successful, the Council plans to run them all across the town.
The environmental impact of this scheme is certainly considerable, with local councils potentially being able to significantly reduce their area’s carbon footprint. In addition, the future development of electric buses can only help the similar evolution of the electric car, an invention that has the potential to seriously lower the world’s carbon emissions.
Arup consultant John Miles who is also an engineering professor at Cambridge University, told BBC that, “These electric buses will be expected to do everything a diesel bus does (…) They will be operating on a demanding urban route, and that’s all part of the trial’s aim – to prove that electric buses can be tough as well as green.”