Reading Buses to upgrade hybrid pair in innovative retrofit project

Reading Buses is challenging the best technology that can be produced for engines that will improve environmental performance and reduce running costs.

It is to upgrade the hybrid systems in two existing ADL Enviro400 double-deckers.

The project will deliver a ‘virtually electric’ bus for less than the normal on-cost for a conventional hybrid system – despite the extra work of repowering an existing vehicle.

Reading Buses Chief Engineer John Bickerton describes the work as: “Pushing the powertrain technology envelope beyond the present capability of existing suppliers.”

One will use Vantage Power’s series-hybrid system, bringing stop-start and selective zero emission running capability.

The second will be converted to Magtec’s plug-in-electric drivetrain with a sub-1,000cc on-board Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) engine to extend the range of the bus.

The two suppliers will convert them this year, competing for a chance to upgrade a share of the remaining hybrid bus fleet as the vehicles come out of their original manufacturer’s warranty.

The work will be supported by £356,000 from the Department for Transport’s Clean Vehicle Technology Fund, “improving the fuel efficiency of our hybrid buses and making savings from mitigating extended warranty costs,” says Mr Bickerton.

He says the work is commercially focused. The upgraded vehicles will be cheaper to operate and have greater warranty cover through the buses’ whole life.

The agreements involve a commitment to fuel efficiency from both suppliers.

Testing has already been completed by Millbrook Proving Ground to provide baseline emissions results and the project aims to halve NOx emissions on a per-km basis as well as target zero emission running in the most congested parts of Reading’s operating area.

Says Mr Bickerton: “We were an early adaptor of hybrid technology and are now at a stage where the whole life cost and performance of vehicles needs to be reviewed.

“We are really excited to trial these repower systems as the cost profile of our hybrids gives an opportunity to try something really innovative at this point in their lives.

“An equivalent brand new bus would cost at least twice as much.”

Reading Buses says the work will improve the environmental performance and reduce the running costs of these ‘legacy vehicles.’