On 19 January 2014, eight StreetLite electric buses will take over from the current diesel vehicles on Milton Keynes Route 7, between Wolverton and Bletchley. The project is being billed as the world’s most demanding electric bus route.
Key to the success of the trial, which is being managed by Mitsui-Arup joint venture MBK Arup Sustainable Projects (MASP), will be the deployment of wireless, 'inductive power transfer' (or IPT) charging technology. The wireless charging will permit the buses to run non-stop throughout a 17 hour working day (and seven day week) – ensuring that they can perform as well as the diesel equivalents.
In addition to saving 500 tonnes of CO2 annually, the initiative is expected to reduce bus-running costs by between £12,000 and £15,000 annually. According to project director, Professor John Miles of Cambridge University:
“Electric buses’ physical and economic potential has historically been sidelined because no-one could see around the range problem associated with the batteries. Wireless charging can bring electric buses in from the cold and potentially put them neck-and-neck with their diesel counterparts. If we can demonstrate true parity with diesel buses during this trial, we’ll have reached a tipping point for low-carbon transport – we’ll have proved it can be cost-effective as well as green”.
The Milton Keynes trial is being financed by eFleet Integrated Service Ltd (eFIS), and involves a host of partners including Milton Keynes Borough Council, Arriva, The University of Cambridge, SSE, Wrightbus Limited, IPT-Technology, Western Power Distribution and Chargemaster Plc. eFIS aims to use the data collected during the trial to demonstrate the viability of electric buses and potentially to kick-start electric bus projects elsewhere in the world.