Electric Routemaster Goes On Trial

| Transport

The New Routemaster bus with fully electric drivetrain is undergoing testing in London

Testing phase begins for a new Routemaster bus converted from hybrid power to a fully electric powertrain

Electrification specialist Equipmake has been demonstrating its latest pure-electric bus technology, in the shape of a zero-emission version of the New Routemaster double-decker bus.

Unveiled as recently as the start of November this year, the clean and green new Routemaster has been reconfigured by Equipmake, a process that saw its hybrid drivetrain completely replaced with a cutting-edge Zero Emission Drivetrain (ZED), which uses 95% British-built component content.

With pre-service trials already started in London, operated by Metroline, the electric version of the Routemaster will continue to be assessed over the next six months. The programme will deliver valuable test data as Transport for London (TfL) continues to evaluate a range of clean technologies, including state-of-the-art repower systems such as the ZED equipment fitted to the test vehicle. Charging infrastructure at Metroline’s Holloway depot, alongside battery data analytics for the bus, is being provided by Zenobē, an EV fleet and battery storage specialist.

The repowered Routemaster but was developed at the company’s base in Snetterton, Norfolk and features a 400kWh battery enabling an expected in-service range of 150 miles – more than enough for a day’s running around the streets of London. The development of the all-electric Routemaster has come about thanks to a programme part funded by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC).

Whilst the Routemaster undergoes its trials in London, Equipmake will also be testing additional repowered buses with other bus operators across the UK during the coming months.

According to Ian Foley, CEO of Equipmake, repowering is a vital, cost-effective transitionary technology that can bridge the gap between diesel and a new electric bus fleet.

“We are delighted to showcase our latest repower system in the shape of a zero-emission version of the iconic New Routemaster double-decker bus during these trials that are taking place,” he says.

Green Technology Adoption

London is leading the way in the adoption of green technologies for large commercial vehicles and as TfL continues to evaluate a range of clean technologies, Equipmake is confident that its repower systems can play a rapid role in accelerating any zero-emission vehicle strategy.

Metroline’s Engineering Director, Adrian Jones is delighted to be taking part in the trials of the innovative fully-electric New Routemaster bus in London. “Repowering technology has huge potential in enabling operators to accelerate the transition of fleets to zero emissions and we look forward to further evaluating this test vehicle over the coming six months,” he says.

The ZED which features in the New Routemaster can be applied to any existing hybrid or diesel bus, quickly upgrading the vehicle with a state-of-the art battery drivetrain.

One of the ZED’s most important features is Equipmake’s patented ultra-efficient thermal management system. This maintains all three of the ZED’s key components – the battery pack, motor, and inverter – at an optimum operating temperature, maximising vehicle range.

Featuring an advanced water-glycol cooling circuit, the system has the added benefit of providing interior heating during cold conditions with captured thermal energy. When the battery is depleted at the end of a complete duty cycle, it can be recharged at the depot overnight via a CSS DC charging point.

Under the skin, the New Routemaster also features Equipmake’s HTM 3500 electric motor. Seamlessly integrated into the prop shaft without the need for a separate transmission, the motor is precisely engineered to meet the demanding requirements of a fully-laden double-decker bus by producing 3,500Nm torque at a motor speed of just 1,000rpm and delivering 400kW maximum power.

Applicability beyond the Routemaster

Equipmake’s repower technology programme involves an inspection of each bus that is being considered for re-powering to ensure its adaptability to the company’s unique, scalable modular electric chassis. Once its suitability is verified, the process itself is quick, with up to five repowers a week being able to be completed, ensuring buses are off the road for as little time as possible.

Each repower is tailored to specific operator requirements, with service routes simulated to ensure the correct battery power level is selected for optimum performance and efficiency, and guaranteed driving ranges of 150 to 250 miles achievable. This is more than sufficient for a complete duty cycle, allowing buses to be recharged overnight.

A Second Life for Buses

Repowering buses with Equipmake’s technology also means a new lease of life for ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles which might otherwise be scrapped as operators transition to emission-free driving. Instead of writing off a whole vehicle, repowering means the body and systems are effectively recycled – bringing huge environmental gains given that the manufacturing of a vehicle is one of the more polluting and energy-intensive parts of its lifecycle.

As well as bringing environmental benefits, Equipmake’s repower programme makes sense from a cost perspective, with each conversion coming in at less than half the price of a new electric bus. And with most buses expected to remain in service for 14 years or beyond, operators can still make significant efficiencies by repowering a bus halfway through its working life.

Ian Foley continues: “We know there is a clear appetite for repowering technology, with strong demand from operators, which is leading to the expansion of our facilities in Norfolk. Changes to grants for bus operators mean repowering is encouraged, and the DfT’s consultation on proposals to end the sale of new non-zero emission buses means demand for our technology will only increase. Add in the associated financial benefits of a repowered bus, and it’s easy to see why such vehicles can very quickly bring cleaner air to every town and city in the UK.”

Earlier this year, Equipmake was awarded a contract by First Bus to fully convert 12 Optare Versa buses from existing EV Generation One systems to Equipmake’s ZED.

Conversion work has been carried out on the first Versa bus at Equipmake’s Snetterton headquarters, with the first of the 12 buses expected to be back in operation on York’s roads this month.

Jonathan Newell
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