Battery powered Solo bus judged a success in Stratford06 August 2010

Trials in Stratford-upon-Avon of the UK's first full-size battery-powered bus, the Optare Solo EV, have convinced operator Johnsons Coach & Bus Travel that all-electric vehicles could have a place in its fleet.

The trials, which concluded this week, compared the operation of a Solo EV with that of a conventional diesel-powered Solo on the Stratford Park & Ride service.

Early results appear to be impressive: with the EV covering 65 miles a day on up to 13 round trips, the batteries still had around 20% capacity remaining. Also, Victoria Johnson, who managed the project, believes that permanent charging arrangements, particularly for layovers at the P&R site, "would enable that mileage to be increased significantly".

She also says that fuel costs are considerably lower for the Solo EV compared to its diesel equivalent, subject to validation of the data. "Electricity used in overnight charging cost £7.30, whereas the cost of diesel for a bus covering the same 65 mile duty cycle is estimated at around five times that, at over £36," she enthuses.

John Johnson, managing director of the bus company, explains that both vehicles were fitted with data loggers to provide information to Aston University for realistic comparisons of the two propulsion systems.

"Although much data has still to be analysed and we did identify some infrastructure issues that will need addressing, our initial findings show a convincing case for the EV on this particular type of service," says Johnson.

"The Solo EV performed exceptionally well and we are satisfied and confident that electric buses can be put to use in our fleet. Drivers commented that they enjoyed the smooth drive, fast acceleration and gentle progressive braking. Passengers noticed that it was a more relaxed experience, with less vibration, a quieter environment and a smoother journey," he adds.

Johnson says the main learning points centre on charging the electric bus, specifically infrastructure and scheduling.

"The trial necessarily required some temporary arrangements for re-charging the batteries," she comments. "And we had to build some time into the schedule for topping-up the charge during the day, which disrupted the scheduling. However, neither of these issues are insurmountable… They just have to be factored in."

Brian Tinham

Related Companies
Optare plc

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