Case study: Electric bus trial
We want to help Kent's bus service providers switch to electric vehicles, but we didn't know how efficient they would be in the countryside.
So we investigated how electric vehicles might perform in rural areas.
The problem we faced
Electric vehicles (EVs) are well suited to use in towns and cities. Journeys in urban areas are typically short and there are plenty of charging points near shops, gyms and offices.
Many EVs also self-recharge by capturing the energy spent when braking, which is more frequent in towns and cities than the countryside.
However, Kent is mostly rural with long distances between settlements and fewer opportunities to conveniently charge, or to recharge through breaking.
Before we can significantly invest in EVs for public transport, we need to ensure that current EV technology and infrastructure will be suitable for use on our rural services.
What we did
We worked in partnership with Renault, GoCoach and Compaid to trial one electric bus and measure its:
- mileage per charge
- electricity consumption.
We used the electric bus in a variety of circumstances including:
- a commuter service running employees between home and office
- our Kent Karrier service - a daily shopper service for people who are unable to use other public transport because of frailty, disability or isolation from a public transport route
- by GoCoach on the popular 'GO2' bus route in Sevenoaks.
Across the trials, the bus was tested in variety of weathers and a range of different road types.
We expected to see that the bus would get more miles per charge in urban areas than rural. But we were hopeful that even with reduced efficiency, it would be cheaper to run in comparison to a fossil-fuel powered bus.
We were delighted that our theory was right! The cost of energy was 10% to 30% less than the comparative cost of diesel.
Over the course of a year, that's about £5,000 saved per bus, plus 4 tons less CO2 emissions!
As happy as we are with this, there are still some barriers to overcome before electric buses are ready for countywide adoption. Specifically the limited range per charge and the time it takes to charge.
On average, the bus had a range of 70 to 80 miles per charge. Our record was 87 miles (with a little left in the 'tank') and we estimate that in prime conditions we could hit 100 miles per charge.
This range would be fine for buses if charging were quicker and more widely available on major routes. At the moment, electric buses would be regularly queueing for a small number of chargers, which isn't practical.
Our electric bus is still in use and very popular with our customers. Because of the limited range we limit its use to shorter routes. It's currently being used to transport people in isolated communities to lunch clubs.
Riders like the quietness inside the vehicle but didn’t like the lack of noise when waiting for it to arrive, particularly those with audio or visual impairments. We plan to add a humming noise to the vehicle to help people hear when it arrives.
We'll continue to monitor the EV market and look forward to more trials in the future.