Durham to be first for Optare Solo EV battery powered buses 26 January 2010

Durham County Council is set to become the first local authority in the UK to introduce Optare's Solo EV battery-powered bus into service.

The County Council, which ordered its Solo EVs using grants from the government's £30 million Green Bus Fund, is putting three onto its Durham Cathedral bus service.

The Durham buses are 8.1 metre models, with a seating capacity of 24 and are being built at Optare's Leeds plant. They will operate between the railway station and coach park ferrying visitors to the World Heritage Centre at Durham Cathedral.

Councillor Bob Young, transport portfolio holder at Durham County Council, says that the Solo EVs are part of a £50 million upgrade of the historic city centre.

He explains that the route will take them through sensitive parts of the city and a pedestrianised area, where zero emission performance will help ensure cleaner air. In fact, the Council estimates that using these buses will save 46 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.

"We are delighted that the County Council is pioneering the use of electric buses, and doing so in the heart of the historic city of Durham," says Young. "As a World Heritage Site, with many ancient and important buildings, this is an ideal place for this type of vehicle."

Richard Startup, business manager for passenger transport at the Council, says that the new buses will have a very low daily mileage – although with steep inclines. Trials of a Solo EV showed that they perform better than existing diesel Solos when climbing these hills – with the added benefit of regenerative charging during descents.

"Another significant advantage of the Solo model is that it has a 'plug and play' power pack, which is easily interchangeable," says Startup.

"This would allow easy conversion of existing Solo diesel buses to battery power or vice versa, enabling us to put these buses into service elsewhere in the County as conventional diesel buses at sometime in the future."

Brian Tinham

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