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October 03 2017
By Mel Holley

A former routeone editor, Mel has more than 30 years’ experience in road and rail transport journalism.

Lothian is first to put Wrightbus
StreetAir buses on the road

Edinburgh has its first full-electric buses - while Wrightbus has seen the commercial debut of its StreetAir product, announced 13 months ago (routeone, Big Story, 10 August 2016). 

In a £2.7m investment, including charging equipment, supported by the Scottish Green Bus Fund, Lothian Buses has put six StreetAir buses on route 1, between Clermiston in the west of the city and Easter Road in Leith. 

Operating through Edinburgh’s central air quality management area, the investment “cements the company’s commitment to reduce emissions and improve air quality in its operating environment.”

Once a further five vehicles are added to the route during 2018, it will be the city’s first fully electric route. Around 1.8m customers travel on the service every year. The new buses entered service on Sunday (1 October).

Although they are the first full-electric buses, Lothian had previously considered using Volvo’s OppCharge pantograph and hybrid-electric 9700 buses. This project, announced jointly by Lothian and Volvo in November 2014, would have seen Siemens charging stations in Musselburgh and Clovenstone, with electric-only operation in three geofenced air quality management areas on route 30. In the event, conventional hybrid buses were used.

The delivery of cleaner buses into the fleet is central to Lothian’s Bus 2020 Environmental Strategy, which includes ongoing investments in low and zero emission buses. The company aims to reduce its emissions footprint by a further 42% by 2020.

The StreetAir buses accommodate up to 70 passengers. They have Wi-Fi, high-back seats, USB charging points and LED spotlights.

The buses operate on a pure electric powertrain, including an all-electric heating and cooling system, with 300kWh of total battery energy that allows the buses to run with zero tailpipe emissions. They also have regenerative braking.

They are charged overnight at new charging stations installed at Lothian’s Annandale Street garage. They take 3-4 hours to receive a full 75kW charge and are able to operate for up to 130 miles.

Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport said: “I am delighted to be able to join Lothian in the launch of their new electric buses. It is fantastic to see operators, like Lothian, investing in their fleet in a way that supports both their passengers and the environment through new low carbon and electric vehicles.

“Lothian have benefitted through the Scottish Green Bus Fund and I would encourage all operators to continue to consider the various grants that the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland can provide.”

Richard Hall, Managing Director of Lothian, added: “We fully support the Scottish Government’s and City of Edinburgh Council’s strategies to improve local air quality. The introduction of full electric buses to this route, combined with our on-going fleet replacement strategy ‘Bus 2020’, ensures that we as a business are doing our part to improve air quality across the city.

“These buses are not only fitted with zero emission technology, they are also quieter and smoother, offering a better customer experience for the thousands of customers who travel with us every day.

“Electric bus technology is here and we need to embrace it and ensure that it is part of our future fleet and business planning strategies. It has a really important and exciting role alongside traditional diesel and hybrid technologies.”

Transport Convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes said: “Lothian Buses have made great progress in modernising their buses to help us improve Edinburgh’s air quality and these new fully-electric buses are a very welcome addition to their fleet. I look forward to seeing them out and about, sending a powerful and very visible message to other road users about our shared responsibility to protect the environment.”

So far in 2017, Lothian has invested in:

- 15 Wrightbus Volvo B8RLE Euro 6 for East Coast Buses

- 6 Wrightbus zero emission full electric buses

- 30 Wrightbus Volvo B5TL Euro 6 for route 26

- 15 Wrightbus Volvo B5TL Euro 6 buses for Airlink

- 20 Wrightbus Volvo B5LH Hybrid Euro 6 buses for Skylink 300

The company employs over 2000 staff, operates over 700 buses across Edinburgh and the Lothians and carries over 121m passengers per year.

Lothian has one of the youngest and cleanest fleet of buses in the country and since 2011 has invested in 85 state-of-the-art hybrid buses and 152 Euro 6 buses.

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