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Single deck BYD Battery Electric Buses in London

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Published on Mar 29, 2014

Edited to add in October 2016: These buses are no longer used in London, with the introduction of a fleet of BYD battery buses these two prototypes have been returned to BYD and after refurbishment will be used by them as demonstrators.
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In December 2013 London became included in the planetwide list of cities and countries using some of the BYD (Build Your Dreams) eBus battery electric buses.

Known as EB1 and EB2 these were used on bus routes Nos. 507 and 521. Sometimes one on each, sometimes them both on the same route. Note that these bus services only operate on weekdays and not at weekends.

Traditionally battery technology has been a niche transport power supply system, generally only suitable for small or midi sized vehicles which are used as either short distance city centre distributors or on other specialist light duty shuttle type services. This simply had to be, since real-world commercial experience showed that batteries were just not capable of powering large buses for a full day.

In many ways these BYD buses acted as 'game-changers', in that for the first time it became viable to have larger buses which are battery powered.

However there are still many limitations; even with new batteries these buses were restricted to light duty services which do not require more than about 155 miles / 250 km of travel before the batteries need re-charging. Many bus services travel much greater distances than this, so will not be suitable for these buses.

In addition, to achieve even this distance the buses had to be so laden with batteries that their 3,000kg weight severely restricted passenger capacity. In London the two battery buses could carry 69 passengers whilst diesel buses of the same size could carry 96 passengers, meaning that the weight of the batteries reduced capacity by a significant 27 people.

Another issue faced by battery buses is how soon and how severely the usual battery issue of "memory affect" will reduce their distance limit. Experience from other attempts to power larger buses from solely batteries suggested that we would only have needed to wait 3 - 5 years to start finding out.

For the services for which these buses are suitable it is to be welcomed that there is now a zero emissions electric bus solution. With so many urban areas suffering serious air pollution so both human health and the wider urban environment will benefit tremendously from more clean electric vehicles.

Electric trolleybuses remain the solution for heavy duty bus services. Being powered via overhead wires means that they share the same clean air / zero tailpipe benefits as trams, and can work 24/7 with ease (of course using different bus drivers during this time).

Another possibility is to have buses which work as part-time trolleybuses and part-time battery buses. This way the batteries can be recharged whilst the bus is still being used.

The other only proven viable alternative is to use fossil fuels, with this typically being diesel - something that even with the latest "euro whatever" emissions standards still emits pollution into urban streets, causing ill health and premature death. NB: even hybrid buses still use polluting fossil fuels. It is also worth remembering that whilst nowdays fossil fuel powered buses rarely emit visible smoke all this really means is that the pollution particles are smaller, so that when breathed in they can pass more deeply into our lungs.

Filmed in London, January - March 2014. Locations include London Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Aldwych, Victoria Station, the Strand, Waterloo station.

Additional scenes from George Street, Croydon - outside East Croydon railway station and tramstop plus the Wuppertal Vohwinkel trolleybus stop of the Solingen trolleybus system.

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