Go-Ahead London to trial battery-electric Equipmake Jewel E

Equipmake Jewel E for Go-Ahead London

Go-Ahead London (GAL) will begin in-service trials of the first Equipmake Jewel E battery-electric double-decker in February 2022, with the operator saying that it “welcomes the competition” that the manufacturer will bring to the segment.

GAL plans to evaluate the prototype Jewel E for a six-month period. The bus will first see use on existing battery-electric routes, but it will also work services that are currently in the hands of either diesel-electric hybrid or diesel buses as the operator seeks to “understand what the vehicle is capable of,” says Engineering Director Richard Harrington.

To Transport for London specification, the 10.9m Jewel E can carry 87 passengers. A subsequent provincial variant will potentially increase that number to beyond 90. Equipmake is also looking into a battery-electric single-decker, although the double-deck market is presently its priority.

DC charging is Equipmake’s focus, but the Jewel E can utilise AC if the customer wishes. Its CCS2 socket can be mounted on either the nearside, the offside or the rear. Adding opportunity charging rails on the roof would be straightforward, Equipmake says. Batteries are located under the staircase and on both sides of the bus behind the ZF AV 133 drive axle.

The Jewel E’s chassis is produced by Agrale in Brazil. It is then transported to Spain for Beulas to body. Integration of the proprietary driveline is undertaken by Equipmake at Snetterton. That package includes the HTM-3500 motor, which weighs 195kg and delivers a peak power of 400kW.

The Norfolk OEM expects to secure a 100,000 sq ft building near to its existing facility to allow it to satisfy orders for both new buses, and the retrofit of existing diesel vehicles to zero-emission.

Equipmake range promise for Jewel E attractive

Equipmake’s range promise for the Jewel E is particularly attractive to GAL. When equipped with the maximum 543kW/h of energy storage, the OEM now says that 300 miles between charges is attainable. It adds that both range and battery life are highly dependent on vehicle usage characteristics, and thus important for the operator is to know when, and for how long, such a promise can be achieved.

Equipmake Jewel E upper deck
Equipmke says that heating in the Jewel E body – built by Beulas – has been optimised to minimise energy consumption and maximise range

Equipmake has a clever method of prolonging battery durability and thus range. Its approach is to utilise only 70% of the battery’s capacity when the bus is new and slowly increase that over time.

That offsets the natural degradation of the energy storage system and maintains range, Managing Director Ian Foley explains.

Other work suggests that the Jewel E will be highly energy efficient, adds GAL Chief Engineer Chris McKeown. A first examination has shown that “the bus is clearly highly engineered and innovative,” he says. The Jewel E’s aesthetics have also drawn positive comment from the operator’s representatives.

There is a further benefit to a graduated increase in battery capacity utilisation. While degradation over a prolonged period cannot be avoided, it occurs more slowly at lower states of charge. Equipmake’s approach minimises the speed of that process, says Mr Foley.

Jewel E comes with more smart bits, Equipmake says

An area of focus for GAL on battery-electric buses is the energy consumption of their heating systems. The operator accepts that vehicle OEMs are working hard to reduce it, but experience has shown that there can be up to a 40% difference in range between summer and winter conditions, with much of that down to heating requirements in the latter season.

Mr Harrington’s favoured approach is that there is no fixation on achieving a set internal temperature in winter. Instead, a differential to that outside is preferable. In an optimal situation that is combined with pre-conditioning of the interior while the bus is on charge. The Jewel E can meet both of those requirements.

“We recognised early on that heating would be a major factor in development,” says Mr Foley. Equipmake’s work on that using heat pump technology has reduced the amount of energy consumed by the function to what it claims is around half that of some comparable systems.

A further factor in heating considers the passenger loading. More people aboard reduces the energy draw to maintain the temperature differential. Equipmake will use a CO2 detector to measure the occupation level, which will influence how much heat is introduced, and how much fresh air.

Discussions already open with other operators

The Jewel E represents Beulas’s first entry into the UK bus sector. It approached Equipmake about a collaborative approach at Busworld Brussels in 2019. The Spanish bodybuilder also sees a market for the vehicle in left-hand drive markets.

Equipmake Jewel E lower saloon rear
To Transport for London specification, the Jewel E carries 87 passengers; in excess of 90 is expected for provincial one-door variants of the model

All eyes are now on the prototype’s trial with GAL. Mr Foley says that the OEM has been deliberately conservative in its range claims, although the Jewel E is also available with 325kW/h or 434kW/h of energy storage where distance between charges is not critical.

There is scope to add or withdraw battery packs to an existing bus to move between the three capacities.

Discussions have been opened with other operators, and how those progress will influence whether a further demonstrator is built. For production, “Beulas has the appetite and capacity for larger orders,” Mr Foley says.

Modelling work has shown Equipmake that the total cost of ownership of a battery-electric bus is less than that of a diesel. Its conclusion was recently echoed by one of the ‘big five’ operators. “Such a vehicle is fundamentally simpler and more reliable,” Mr Foley continues. “That is one of the reasons why we see such potential for the Jewel E.”