There was a step change last week when the first of a fleet of 51 electric buses produced as a result of cooperation between Alexander Dennis and BYD were launched in London. They will be followed by many more such single-deckers over coming years. Tim Deakin reports from Cornwall Road depot
The first of what will be Europe’s largest fleet of electric buses were launched in London on Friday last week (9 September) in a ceremony that also marked the public debut of the fruits of the much-hyped relationship between Alexander Dennis (ADL) and Chinese electric vehicle specialist BYD.
Fifty-one examples of what has been christened the BYD ADL Enviro200EV are being delivered to Go-Ahead London.
They will be used on the short-distance and heavily-peaked services 507 and 521, between Waterloo and Victoria and London Bridge stations respectively, and mark the beginning of Transport for London’s (TfL’s) quest to have all single-deck buses in the central area emission-free.
The first have been delivered after what BYD Europe Managing Director Isbrand Ho describes as “three years of successful running” of a pair of earlier Chinese-made electric buses.
The initial two regularly worked 16-hour duties, says Mr Ho, but the new buses are improved. “The Enviro200EV is better and more tailored to particular demands; it’s a new bus for London,” he says.
New and improved
Besides the most significant addition – that of Alexander Dennis Enviro200 MMC bodywork – one of the principal differences is that weight has been reduced in the Enviro200EVs when compared to its Chinese-built predecessor by using two battery packs, one fewer than before.
As a result, all batteries are now located on the roof and so the earlier buses’ ‘cupboard’ over the nearside front wheel is no more.
The 21-seat, 12m Enviro200EVs weigh in at 12,115kg unladen, and can carry a maximum of 91 passengers, helped by their gross vehicle weight of 18,600kg. In a first for London, they are fitted with seat-back USB charging points.
Despite the removal of one battery pack, range remains similar to the earlier buses’. It is in the region of 150 miles; by way of illustration, figures supplied by ADL and BYD show that buses used on the 507 and 521 routes average around 13,400 miles per year.
Nevertheless, they will be charged every night at dedicated stations supplied by BYD. 43 charging points will be installed at the Cornwall Road depot, with five others going in at nearby Mandela Way.
A full charge can be undertaken in four hours, and BYD claims that its batteries have a long service life. Even after 10 years, they will retain 75% of their maximum charge, it says.
BYD UK Deputy Managing Director Martin Hayes promises that further advancements in technology will allow future buses born of the BYD ADL partnership to reduce battery weight still further.
BYD is on record that efficiency of its batteries will increase by 10% year-on-year, and that will allow its products to either become lighter or go further between charges.
In cases where the same range is required and unladen weight thus reduces, that will lead to a virtuous circle, says Mr Hayes. Removing mass will allow a greater range, and so batteries can be downsized still further in an ongoing process of improvement.
In an indication of the buses’ capabilities, they are being delivered from ADL’s Larbert plant – over 400 miles away – under their own power. ‘Pit stops’ at the manufacturer’s support network sites along the way are made to recharge.
Spread the love
The benefits of a whole depot’s conversion to EV operation are not limited to air quality in the areas that its buses serve. Cornwall Road is surrounded by housing, and the improvement to both air quality and noise levels for nearby residents will be enormous.
This factor is important, says BYD UK Country Manager Frank Thorpe, who has experience of bus operation in London. “I remember when the 507 and 521 routes were operated with Leyland Nationals. When they were started in the morning, there would be what can only be described as a mushroom cloud over the depot. Now, there will be nothing. No pollution and no noise.”
Although many of the Enviro200EVs will return to Cornwall Road off-peak, there will be no need to charge them during that time.
Instead, Mr Thorpe explains that BYD’s policy is that its buses carry enough stored energy to complete a full day’s work without the need for charging in the meantime, either on an opportunity basis or for longer periods.
“All of the electrical technology in the Enviro200EV is by BYD, including the batteries. That is a unique selling point of the product. It allows us to fine-tune all of the components so that they work at their most efficient.”
A new marriage
Alexander Dennis CEO Colin Robertson describes the 507 and 521 conversions as “an enabling opportunity” for the still young relationship between his company and BYD.
“We are very excited about the future of our partnership with BYD, but we still think that the best is yet to come,” says Mr Robertson.
Some further developments have already been announced, and one will debut very soon; the two manufacturers are already working on a 10.8m variant of the Enviro200EV, while ADL’s promotional material confirms that the partnership will spawn an electric double-decker in the future.
BYD adds that it will build no more complete buses for the UK market in China. Instead, they will all carry ADL bodies, and one of the keys to the growth of the BYD ADL electric range will be the opening of a BYD chassis assembly plant in Europe.
Mr Ho announced these plans at Busworld Kortrijk almost a year ago, and Mr Hayes confirms that they will soon come to fruition, although the plant will not be in the UK. He also points to recent appointments at BYD UK – including his own and Mr Thorpe’s, along with that of former ADL man Mike Kerslake as Technical Manager – as an indicator of the potential that it sees here.
The next episode
When the next batch of electric buses from any manufacturer will start delivery to London is not yet known, but Managing Director of Surface Transport Leon Daniels confirms that TfL has already awarded another contract for a route that includes conversion to full EV operation.
It will be service 360, which runs between the Royal Albert Hall and Elephant and Castle, and in what could perhaps be an interesting indication of things to come, the 360 will lose its existing hybrids. It was the first route in the capital to receive diesel-electric buses, 10 years ago.
Mr Daniels adds that TfL is accelerating contract negotiations on all other single-deck services in the central area with conversion to EV in mind; it will not award another tender on the basis of diesel operation of such routes, he says.
The reason for speeding up the tendering process is because of infrastructure requirements, he adds. Representatives of BYD point out that this is the principal dictator of any timeframe for conversion to electric operation, and that work to install charging stations must begin months prior to the buses entering service.
Alexander Dennis and BYD are very proud that they will soon be responsible for the entry into service of the largest fleet of electric buses in Europe, and the resources that both are investing into their partnership suggests that both are in electric buses for the long term.
The addition of ADL bodywork to BYD’s chassis technology – which has proved itself in London over the last three years – is significant.
ADL’s support network is vast and the Enviro200 MMC body is well put together. A ride on a heavily-laden Enviro200EV in London traffic was undertaken in near silence, such is the tranquillity of the travelling environment.
Martin Hayes makes the point that BYD is the world’s biggest manufacturer of electric buses, and that ADL is the market leading builder of double-deckers. “Putting the two together makes sense,” he says. routeONE looks forward to seeing more fruits of this blossoming relationship.