Newport electric bus plans examined in webinar

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The first steps of an aspiration by Newport Bus to go wholly zero-emission by 2028 were explored recently at a further webinar hosted by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, which looked at the operator’s move into the electric bus market.

routeone has reported on Newport Bus’s zero-emission plans previously. The operator will take delivery of 14 Yutong E12 battery-electric buses soon. They are currently in transit from China and they will join a former demonstrator E12 that the municipal operator purchased in 2019.

That seed vehicle has performed well in the 10 months it has been in service, says Managing Director Scott Pearson. It has been used on each of the operator’s bus duties except for those that involve longer-distance services. The maximum range requirement is 210 miles and the E12 has proved that it can easily achieve that, adds Mr Pearson.

“There was no point using the bus on one or two routes and hoping for the best,” he says. Maintenance costs for the Yutong have been 42% lower than for a comparable diesel and as an average, energy costs are down by £50 per day on the same basis. No in-service failures have been recorded. Driver satisfaction is 96% and customer approval is at 94%.

Pelican plans on 50 EVs by end of 2020

Newport’s initial fleet of battery-electric buses was made possible by funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) Ultra Low Emission Bus scheme.

The operator was awarded money against one bus and charging infrastructure, but negotiations with DfT and partners Pelican Bus and Coach and Zenobe Energy saw the order for new buses grow to 14.

Pelican expects to have placed 50 zero-emission coaches and buses in service in the UK by the end of 2020. A battery-electric double-decker bus will be available in the “very near future,” says Head of Yutong Bus UK Ian Downie.

Mr Downie points out that while battery-electric buses may be relatively new to the UK mainstream market, they are not new to Yutong. China’s largest bus manufacturer has built 103,000 of them since 1999.

In Newport, the Yutongs will be supplied on a ‘plug and play’ basis. Zenobe Energy has de-risked the project by providing and funding all charging infrastructure, including on-site battery storage.

It also owns the vehicle batteries. Their performance is guaranteed and Zenobe is responsible for replacing them when needed. Through its ownership of the associated infrastructure, Zenobe also guarantees that the buses will be charged as required.

Zenobe additionally provides finance for the buses, excluding their batteries. “We split the bus into two components: The battery and everything else,” says Business Development Director Bradley Fox. All costs are covered by monthly fees payable by the operator.

Infrastructure future-proofed for likely growth

The infrastructure delivered by Zenobe is constructed with future needs in mind. Although it will support 15 vehicles initially, contingency is designed in. The package can be scaled up as the fleet of battery-electric buses in Newport grows. Additionally, the modular system can be moved elsewhere should it become necessary to relocate the depot.

Newport Bus is the first operator in the UK to take up Zenobe and Pelican’s ‘plug and play’ option for the full lifecycle of electric buses. Doing so removes the high initial cost of both the infrastructure and the vehicles and it guarantees that each bus will be sufficiently charged at the start of each day.

Storage batteries within the depot support peak electricity demand. As Zenobe uses batteries removed from buses for that second life purpose, they can be assigned a higher residual value. That assists the financial proposal to the operator.

The ’plug and play’ option was “essential” for Newport Bus, says Mr Pearson. He adds that working with partners Pelican and Zenobe was key to the project; without them, and the scalability that the approach brings, it would not have been possible to launch the operator’s first step towards an entirely zero-emission fleet.