London now has more than 850 zero-emission buses, with a range of technologies needed to power the fleet as it grows further
Pantograph bus charging technology providing fast, high-power top-ups is now in operation at London’s Bexleyheath bus garage. It is the latest chapter in TfL’s transformation to a zero-emission bus fleet, which has seen the transport authority make a commitment to deliver a fully zero-emission bus fleet in London by 2034, as outlined in its Bus Action Plan. TfL has already committed to ensuring all new vehicles entering service are zero-emission, and subject to additional funding says it could bring forward the target from 2034 to 2030. TfL is working with bus manufacturers to develop what it terms a ‘vibrant and competitive’ zero-emission market, alongside work with stakeholders to ensure necessary infrastructure is available to enable the transition. More widely, the plan also supports the Mayor of London’s goal to decarbonise the capital with clean, renewable energy and ensure the city reaches net zero by 2030.
There are now more than 850 zero-emission buses in London in a fleet of around 9,000, most of which are only able to be charged in garages overnight. With the varying length and requirements of London’s bus routes, the introduction of the new charging technology will ensure that infrastructure is in place to support TfL’s zero-emission ambitions; last year, TfL launched 20 double-deck hydrogen buses on routes 7 and 245 to test longer-range technology in the urban environment.
The new technology uses a pantograph to deliver a quick, high-power charge to buses. Wireless RFID technology is used to allow the bus to communicate with the pantograph charging station. It is the first time the technology has been used in London, which is being used to power all-electric route 132. The buses, which are still conventionally charged overnight, will use opportunity charging, with stops taking less than 10 minutes, increasing the buses’ range and allowing each bus to cover a longer distance, with fewer buses needed to provide the same level of service, meaning that resources can be be reinvested into other areas of the network.
From next year, a further extension of opportunity charging, with pantographs located at each end of a route, will be trialled in another first for London; the 15-mile route 358 between Crystal Palace and Orpington is one of London’s longest. A standard garage charge alone would not sustain a zero-emission bus the entire day due to the length of the route, TfL says, so it will install a pantograph at each end of the route, rather than at the garage. As previously reported in CBW, the route will also benefit from new buses that resemble a tram, with the introduction of Irizar’s 12m ie tram.
Deputy Mayor for Transport Seb Dance said: “Londoners deserve to breathe clean air, and as part of our work to tackle the twin dangers of toxic air pollution and the climate emergency, I’m pleased that this new technology is being used on buses in south London.
“The introduction of the pantograph builds on the progress we have already made to run a cleaner and greener bus service. Transforming London’s bus fleet is an important part of the Mayor’s target of getting London to net zero by 2030, and his aim to build a better London – a fairer, greener and more prosperous city for all.”
Louise Cheeseman, TfL’s Director of Bus, said: “The threats of toxic air, climate change and congestion are becoming clearer every day, and it’s vital that we find technical solutions that help us run clean, green services that get Londoners where they need to be. When buses can travel further each day, as they do with this exciting pantograph technology, we can deliver the same service that Londoners rely on without increasing the number of buses and invest in other routes.
“The installation of the rapid pantograph charging for route 132 is a key step to help us get zero-emission buses running on routes all across London.”
John Trayner, Go-Ahead London’s Managing Director, added: “Route 132 is the latest in a long line of pioneering zero-emission firsts for Go-Ahead London. Working innovatively with our supply chain, we have extended vehicle range by harnessing technology, in the process reducing the overall number of buses required to provide service and delivering significant cost savings. The vehicles have been well received by our passengers and they are helping to improve air quality for local residents.”