Abellio’s Caetano electric bus unveiled

Abellio strengthens its fleet as its first zero-emission electric bus launches in the capital in a bid to improve air-quality as well as improve safety and passenger comfort

Abellio has showcased its new Caetano e.City Gold electric bus for Transport for London (TfL) contracted routes ahead of the arrival of 34 new buses next year.

The 10.7m zero-emission electric buses will enter service in 2020, with 24 arriving in March for route C10 and another 10 coming at the end of May for route P5.

Designed to carry 60 passengers, the bus has a complete low floor throughout with a bigger wheelchair bay, or room for two to three buggies.

The new buses,- which have onboard energy storage of 350kW/h – are the result of a collaboration between Abellio, Portuguese bus manufacturer CaetanoBus and Zenobe Energy.

Important changes

During initial talks, Managing Director of Abellio London, Tony Wilson visited Portugal twice to see the Caetano electric buses in action. He says: “They are 12m there and left-hand drive, so we needed them to be right-hand drive and 10.7m, but obviously also adapted for TfL requirements which have been changing quite a lot over the last two years.

“We would have had a lot of difficulty getting some of these features from a different manufacturer. Something which might seem simple enough like moving the windscreen wipers from the bottom of the window to the top is technically not that simple and Caetano managed to do that. That is one of TfL’s Bus Safety Standards to make the bus more sympathetic to other road users, either pedestrians or cyclists.

“Caetano has been fantastic all along the way and worked with us to produce something that’s acceptable and really does enhance customer satisfaction, and I think it’s pretty much market leading.”

Additional new features include the Camera Monitoring Systems to replace traditional wing mirrors. Designed with two screens, the driver can see two different angles; not just the road behind but also the kerb.

The bus is clean and quiet and also boasts Intelligent Speed Assist, zero emission heating and Acoustic Vehicle Alert System.

Air quality

The transport sector is the largest contributor of CO2 and NOx emissions. Around half of London’s air pollution is caused by road transport and with the capital’s poor track record on emissions, Zenobe’s financing, working alongside the government’s ULEB grants, is significantly speeding up the process of bringing zero-emission vehicles onto roads. This will help to improve air quality across south London and to meet legally binding carbon reduction targets.

Steven Meersman, co-founder of Zenobe Energy, says: “We’re privileged to be working with Abellio on such a ground-breaking project in the capital. As a London-based company, we are delighted to play a role in the city’s drive to reduce pollution and improve air quality, as we’re doing in Guildford and will be in other cities such as Newport.

“We are also providing an end of life solution for the vehicle. We are charging Abellio on a per kilometre basis and us funding any replacement as required, so we’re not only guaranteeing that our batteries will be charged on time but we’re also guaranteeing that there will always be a battery that will do the route.”

The energy storage container is charged during the day using energy from the grid, building up a surplus ready to be released and used to charge the buses when they return to the depot at night. There will be multiple chargers and the buses will align with them. The battery charging operation is silent, so there’s no noise pollution to the local neighbourhood.

Greener buses

Steven says: “We can talk to the bus with our software so we can monitor how much energy the bus requires if it comes back with, say, 10% battery left. We know when it needs to operate, so we prioritise that bus, not necessarily the one that came in first which is still 80% full.”

Zenobe offers full end to end service which includes providing the electricity, providing the charging infrastructure and providing the batteries, so from an operator’s perspective it’s like buying a diesel bus and costs roughly the same.

Steven adds: “The batteries are not going to go to waste. When they come off the vehicle we can use them in a second life for a few more years, so that’s not just good from an economics perspective, but it’s good from an environmental perspective.

These batteries can enable more buses, or be used on a solar plant, or somewhere else, which makes the batteries going into these buses even greener.

“We hope this is the first of many opportunities like this in London and look forward to working with other commercial fleet operators in their transition to net-zero.”

“Double-deckers are the next development” says Tony. “And we’re talking to Caetano about where we can go with that. In truth they’re probably two years off but that actually sits quite well with our programme.”