Caledonia to be ‘UK’s largest EV charging station’, says First

First Caledonia depot electric bus upgrade work

First Glasgow has started work to turn Caledonia depot into what it says will be the UK’s largest electric vehicle charging station. The operator is collaborating with Dutch power services provider Heliox on the project, which is part of a longer-term objective to see Caledonia fully prepared for a transition to net zero operations.

With a phased completion over the next 18 months, Caledonia will ultimately have space to charge up to 300 battery-electric buses. Work there represents both Heliox’s first project in the UK and the largest that it has yet undertaken in terms of the number of charging points installed.

Heliox to install ‘dual head’ EV chargers at First Caledonia

Phase one of the work at Caledonia is underway. It will see Heliox install 11 ‘dual head’ DC rapid charging units and is scheduled for completion by September. That will allow 22 battery-electric BYD ADL Enviro200EVs to enter service ahead of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November.

Phase two will commence in the summer. It will see an additional 69 dual charging units installed over six months. They will take to 162 the number of chargers at Caledonia, allowing the battery-electric fleet to expand by a further 126 vehicles: 35 Enviro200EVs and 91 Enviro400EV double-deckers.

The depot upgrade and infrastructure work and the 148 battery-electric buses are being funded by £28.2m from two rounds of the Scottish Ultra Low Emission Bus Scheme, and £35.6m committed by First. Caledonia already operates two Enviro200EVs (pictured). When all 150 BYD ADLs are in operation Caledonia’s fleet will be 45% battery-electric.

Net zero operations objective for depot in the longer term

First Glasgow will utilise Heliox’s 150kW modular rapid charging solution. It is a flexible unit that can charge any battery-electric vehicle, which First says will extend potential usage beyond its bus fleet. Usage will be controlled via ‘smart charging’ software. That will ensure power demand is utilised at the most efficient times.

First’s longer-term objective around net zero operations for Caledonia will involve further opportunities for on-site renewable energy, storage technologies and renewable energy utility supply, it says.

The group commented earlier in 2021 that Caledonia will be used as a ‘test bed’ for depot electrification that can be used on a ‘plug and play’ basis elsewhere as part of its commitment to operate a wholly zero-emission bus fleet by 2035 and purchase no new diesel buses after December 2022.