Affordable mechanical hybridisation is the key to unlocking substantial savings for operators of low-carbon bus fleets, but real-life cost efficiency without grant subsidy should be the primary purchase consideration
Leading UK low-carbon vehicle technology innovation company, Torotrak Group, today urged bus and coach operators planning investment in hybrid vehicles to fully research the different options available to them before committing funds.
“There is widespread recognition that hybrid buses will be integral to a low carbon public transport network in the UK, but operators need to ensure they are fully conversant with the different technologies on offer, particularly with regard to cost,” said Tobias Knichel, Torotrak Group Business Development Director. “Capital investment, training requirements, service costs and re-sale value are all significant considerations in the buying process for a ‘conventional’ vehicle and there is no reason for a hybrid purchase to be approached any differently.”
Knichel was speaking during the 2015 Bus and Coach Engineering Seminar, held in September at the London headquarters of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, where Torotrak Group was one of a number of industry stakeholders sharing and discussing information and opinion on the latest low-emission technologies and developments in the bus and coach arena. Presenting on ‘Hybrid Buses: Advantages, Disadvantages and Lessons Learned’, Knichel
focused on Torotrak’s experience of designing, developing and testing its Flybrid® mechanical Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), which is currently installed in a Wrightbus StreetLite that is undergoing passenger trials as part of the Arriva fleet in Kent.
“We believe that a mechanical KERS design fitted to a vehicle such as the Wrightbus StreetLite is the ideal solution for operators wanting a robust, cost-effective route to establishing or extending a hybrid presence in their fleet,” commented Knichel. “Our goal from the outset was to develop a system that works in ‘real-life’ without subsidy, requires no bespoke employee training or additional infrastructure and delivers good residual value – and this is exactly what we have achieved.”
The Flybrid KERS for buses has a design life of 1,000,000 (one million) km / 40,000 hours of operation / 8,000,000 (eight million) charge/discharge cycles – effectively equivalent to the working
life of the vehicle to which it is fitted. Torotrak cites the additional capital investment needed for a Flybrid installation as one quarter that of the requirement for a full battery electric hybrid, with a payback timescale of less than five years wholly realistic.
The discussions about technologies and legislation at the IMechE Seminar were very timely for bus manufacturers and fleet operators in the UK, with applications for the first round of grant from the new Low Emission Bus Scheme (LEB) having to be submitted by 31st October. Launched earlier this year following consultation with the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, the LEB commits the Government to make at least £30million available over the next three years to support the purchase of new, more fuel-efficient buses. Operators can apply for funding towards the additional cost of low carbon technologies such as hybrid systems, in comparison to the cost of equivalent diesel vehicles.
Torotrak’s Flybrid system qualifies for the maximum 75% subsidy available under the LEB regulations for its class of technology, making the commercial proposition even more attractive to bus operators. “Flybrid technology already offers a long life, low-maintenance hybrid solution with significant advantages in respect of initial capital investment and subsequent fuel savings and vehicle residual value,” explained Knichel. “The opportunity to apply for grant funding that could more than halve the payback period to just two years only makes it even more compelling.”
The Flybrid system can be ordered now for fitment to a Wrightbus StreetLite bus.
English councils to bid for share of £5m eco-friendly bus fund
Councils across England are now able to bid for a portion of a new £5m fund to fit buses with green technology. The Clean Bus Technology Fund 2015, launched 10 September, is providing councils with up to £500,000 shares of the total cash pot.
The amount is deemed enough to retrofit hundreds of existing buses to cut nitrogen oxide emissions by at least 50% and improve air quality. Fund grants will particularly focus on pollution hotspots in cities and urban areas.
Around 1,500 buses have been retrofitted with green technology in London and other parts of England. Transport minister Andrew Jones MP added that the funding will also support British industries to deliver the technology.
Local authorities will be able to bid until the end of October and winners will be announced towards the end of the year. A further 32 vehicles were added to its eco-friendly fleet in March 2014 thanks to £2m government funding.
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Bus operators in Scotland are being invited to get on board with the latest round of Scottish Green Bus Fund now opened for applications
A further £3 million is being made available from this year’s Future Transport Fund as part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to promoting Low Carbon Vehicles
Transport Minister Derek Mackay announced the details of this latest round of funding for public bus services during a visit to First Bus in Glasgow. Mr Mackay said:
“I am delighted to announce this £3 million in the latest round of the Scottish Green Bus Fund for 2015-2016. Increasing the number of low carbon vehicles in the Scottish fleet achieves a number of government aims – helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality by accelerating the replacement of older, more polluting vehicles. The newer greener vehicles can be used to attract more passengers and also benefit manufacturers by increasing demands for their more innovative products.”
Over the past five rounds of SGBF funding, Transport Scotland has provided grant funding totalling almost £13 million enabling 269 new low carbon emission buses introduced to the Scottish bus fleet by March 2016.