Features & Interviews

It’s electrifying: Bus depots and EV charging infrastructure

11 April 2024 #Features & Interviews

As public transport operators around the UK introduce more and more electric buses, so the need for extra charging infrastructure has grown.

The past few months has seen a series of major projects across the country as energy companies deliver the necessary infrastructure to support operators in their decarbonisation goals and improve local air quality.

For example, work to electrify Oldham’s bus depot, which started last November, has now been completed to enable charging for a new fleet of modern zero emission buses in Greater Manchester’s Bee Network.

A total of 17 Heliox Flex 180 kW (kilowatt) chargers have been installed, capable of dynamically charging 51 vehicles simultaneously in two and a half hours, giving a range of up to 160 miles on a full charge.

First Bus worked with its decarbonisation partners, Magnus Construction to carry out the installation and Heliox to supply the charging equipment.

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) entered into an agreement with First Bus Manchester, as the existing operator of Oldham depot, to carry out the works, ahead of a handover to Stagecoach, who will operate Bee Network services.

A new substation along with other high-voltage equipment supply the power required, which is cabled to the charging points via overhead gantries, along with safety bollards, lining and signing to provide designated charging bays.

New electric buses will operate on three routes around Oldham to replace previous older diesel vehicles.

It is the latest step in upgrading depots and transitioning to an electric bus fleet and follows successful electrification of a depot in Bolton ahead of the launch of the Bee Network there last September.

Zoe Hands, Managing Director of First Bus in Manchester, said: “First Bus has extensive experience in the transformation of depots to electric from our programme at sites across the UK.

“We have brought this knowledge and expertise to Oldham to manage the conversion alongside the continued operation of the depot to serve local communities and the wider region of Greater Manchester.”

Meanwhile, Go-Ahead has installed one of the biggest electric charging hubs in the UK at the depot of its Oxford Bus Company operation.

Zenobē, the fleet electrification specialist worked to install 104 charging points at Cowley House, each offering 150kw of DC power.

The hub is being supplied by an 8 Megawatt (MW) electrical connection, which will provide enough electricity to charge 104 new electric buses, enough for each bus to drive over 170 miles per day.

Zenobē has also worked with Stagecoach to install 55 chargers at its Network Oxford site for its 55 new electric buses.

To enable the buses to charge overnight, depot charging infrastructure being installed by Zenobē will be powered by an EDF Renewables UK substation at Oxford Bus Company’s Watlington Road depot.

A consortium of bus operators, including the Oxford Bus Company, pledged money towards the scheme, as well as the UK government and Oxfordshire County Council.

All the new buses are being manufactured in the UK and are expected to arrive by June 2024.

Steven Meersman, Co-Founder Director of Zenobē, said: “This is a flagship project for Zenobē. It is an example of what an ambitious operator can do with a strong vision and local support.

“We have worked on more than 50 electrification projects globally and this one stands out for its scale and for the level of collaboration with other operators and government.”

SWARCO Smart Charging, meanwhile, has created a new Electric Bus Charging Hub at Sheffield Interchange on behalf of the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA), which will operate the all-electric Sheffield Connect route in the city centre.

A total of four electric BYD-Alexander Dennis Enviro200EV single deck buses were introduced at the depot this month and will be charged at the new eBus charging hub equipped with four 100kW CCS chargers which will be managed by SWARCO’s E.Connect system.

The chargers have dual charging points, which means the hub can accommodate charging for eight buses simultaneously and will be able to support other bus operators as they switch to an electric future.

As the main bus station in central Sheffield, the Interchange serves not only the local bus service providers but also National Express coaches that connect the city with destinations across the UK.

South Yorkshire aims to have a zero carbon public transport network by 2040 and SYMCA secured funding from the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme for the works.

Lara Navetta, Sales Director for SWARCO Smart Charging, said “SYMCA has ambitious plans for South Yorkshire and the switch to electric buses for the Sheffield Connect route is just a start.

“SYMCA has taken a very smart approach to creating the charging infrastructure; the charging hub will be able to support the future electrification of fleets running through Sheffield Interchange.”

In addition, First Bus has invested in EV infrastructure at its Roundtree Way depot in Norwich, enabling it to run the first of 70 new electric buses.

UK Power Networks installed new underground cables and equipment at a local substation so the depot could be fully upgraded to power electric buses.

The project is part of UK Power Networks’ Green Recovery programme, which is investing £66 million across 85 sites, to fast-track low carbon energy projects that will help the UK achieve Net Zero by 2050.

Money for the project came from ZEBRA Government funding, bid for and won with Norfolk County Council, and a capital investment from First Bus.

Councillor Graham Plant, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: “Working with First Bus and UK Power Networks, this paves the way for us to become home to one of only three all-electric fleet depots in the UK outside London and is an amazing boost to our ambitions to run a net-zero transport system in Norfolk.”

Electric buses are making a huge difference to air quality in urban areas and by working to electrify depot sites in more of our towns and cities, the UK is moving towards decarbonised public transport – stop by stop – for all.

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