Electric bus goes head to head with diesel 23 July 2010

A comparative trial between Britain's first viable full-size, battery-powered bus – the Optare Solo EV – and a diesel engine equivalent, could accelerate the introduction of cleaner buses to Britain.

Warwickshire bus and coach operator Johnsons Coach & Bus Travel is a partner in the six-day trial, which takes place in Stratford-upon-Avon this month and will involve measuring air and noise pollution on town streets.

Other partners include Aston University, which will focus on the practical findings, and Coventry University, which will look at the socio-economic impacts. Emissions, fuel consumption and running costs will all be compared.

Co-ordination of the trial is by South Warwickshire sustainability consultancy Greenwatt Technology, and it has been jointly funded by Stratford District Council and Stratford Town Trust.

Stratford Park and Ride is the proving ground and councillor Simon Jackson, cabinet member for the Environment at Stratford Council, says: "Stratford on Avon District Council is very pleased to be involved with this project. It is an excellent opportunity to push forward with the development of a more sustainable public transport system for the UK.''

Meanwhile, Optare hopes that the research will provide a sound environmental case and demonstrate commercial viability for the use of electric buses – as well as generating practical advice for operators.

"This is a very important trial backed by some serious and intense evaluation by two top academic bodies. The fact that a leading bus operator with immense practical experience and a local authority are also key partners gives it added value," states Glenn Saint, Optare commercial director.

He does not expect to see electric vehicles replacing diesel buses entirely. "Electric buses will form another, but important, part of the portfolio of solutions by which we will balance our need for good public transport services with our wish to enjoy a clean environment," says Saint.

Based in Henley in Arden, Johnsons Coach & Bus Travel was awarded a Green Bus Fund grant of £280,000 by the DfT for the purchase of alternatively fuelled vehicles. The firm says this trial could result in more electric buses on the streets of Stratford-upon-Avon very soon.

Brian Tinham

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