Stagecoach has become the first UK bus operator to implement an innovative modification to its electric buses which allows them to run for longer in between charging sessions.
Stagecoach, which operates six Optare Solo electric vehicles in Inverness, Scotland, has worked with manufacturer Optare to extend the range of the vehicles so they can now cover up to 130 miles before needing to be charged, compared to the previous range of up to 95 miles.
The buses, which were launched last year, also feature electric heating, chosen because it is a more environmentally friendly option than diesel heaters.
The vehicles’ newly-extended range means each bus can complete a full day of service before requiring charging, helping Stagecoach continue to deliver reliable services for customers in Inverness.
Of particular note was the fact that Optare increased the potential range of its Solo electric buses by 50% with minimal impact on passenger capacity and distribution.
In partnership with Stagecoach, Optare explored more environmentally friendly electric heating as an alternative to the small auxiliary diesel powered heater that most electric buses employ. Initially the electric heating consumed an average of 33% of the total energy available. Innovative design changes have reduced this to only 20% of the overall energy, an improvement of 39%.
To complete the range extension, although the type of batteries used was not changed, further batteries have also been added to the buses. These are located in a pod on the roof (see image). However, Optare said it was focused was on minimising the number of additional batteries and keeping extra weight to a minimum in order to maximise the efficiency improvements.
Sam Greer, Stagecoach UK bus engineering director, commented: “Sustainability is at the heart of our business and we have worked with Optare to develop a fleet of vehicles that is emissions free and now even more efficient, as well as providing improved comfort for passengers and reduced vehicle noise. Importantly, these buses will help further improve air quality for the people of Inverness.”
Robert Drewery, commercial director, Optare, said: “We are extremely pleased with this series of innovative firsts, already the UK’s most efficient electric bus in terms of kWh per mile, these six extended range fully electric buses are the first to go into operation and are also the first of their kind with electric heating.“