Equipmake: Battery electric coach repower due before end of year?

Repower specialist Equipmake has revealed it is hoping to debut a battery-electric repower of a coach before the end of the year.

The concept is being considered for tri-axle coaches, which the supplier says provide a generous amount of mass and volume, making them more suited to retrofit of a battery-electric driveline. The repower is expected to consist of multiple battery packs in parallel stored in the existing engine bay. Capacity will be similar to Equipmake’s bus offering at 300-400kW/h, delivering a predicted range of at least 150 miles.

Founder and Managing Director Ian Foley (pictured, below) reveals the company has been approached by both inter-city and urban coach operators for a solution following its repower work with buses, which recently included the high-profile debut of a battery-electric Wrightbus New Routemaster at Euro Bus Expo.

“We looked at a few different coaches, and it looks very feasible,” Mr Foley reveals. “Studies show we can repower an existing coach, not use any of the existing luggage capacity as battery storage, and maintain the weight within the axle weight limits while still having a reasonable range.”

Mr Foley reveals that interest in coach repower is driven both by limited choice on the zero-emission coach market, and for the potential of a cost saving over the price of a brand new battery-electric vehicle when uncertainty remains over finance and regulations. Another attractive proposition will be the retention of existing luggage capacity carried over from a large diesel coach.

“For people who are looking at a new coach purchase at the moment, one of the challenges is knowing exactly how long they will be able to run the vehicle,” adds Mr Foley. “It’s a big investment to make now with a lot of uncertainty, and a repower would be significantly more cost-effective.”

An interesting point for coach, according to Mr Foley, is the potential for opportunity charging. He believes that makes a huge difference in the feasibility of coach repower. “With coach, there are certain operations where it is possible during the day – for example, where a coach has a 30-minute wait between its destination and a return journey – that an opportunity charge at 100kW can add significantly to the daily range.”

Like with bus, Equipmake acknowledges that no one size will fit all and that there will be coach operations where repower is “not suitable”. But it counters that with the belief that a significant number of coach journeys will be suited if the option for opportunity charging becomes available, and that its ambitions for repower are being driven by market pull.

“Just as with diesel buses that have a 200 mile or more daily range, there isn’t an easy electric solution at the moment,” he says. “But I think there are a significant number of routes that it is suitable for. It’s probably going to start off with those niches that work, and grow from there. We think we are close with one operator to making the first debut, and we certainly hope that, later this year, we’ll see the first of our repower coaches in operation.”