Friday, August 29, 2014

Britain Announces Plans for the Next Generation of Emissions-Free Public Transit

One of London’s double-decker, hybrid fuel technology buses. {Credit: AP / Matt Dunham) Click to enlarge.
Trains and buses of the low and even emissions-free variety are on the rise in Britain, evidenced by two new projects underway in the country.

On Thursday, BusinessGreen reported that the city of London is launching a trial project for specially-designed hybrid buses that can wirelessly recharge their batteries while sitting at bus stops.  And earlier in August, the outlet also passed along word that Network Rail, the owner and operator for most of Great Britain’s railway infrastructure, is testing out a new model of battery-powered train.

Transport for London (TfL) is overseeing the first project, which will start running four buses along the city’s route 69 between the Canning Town and Walthamstow bus stations — both of which will be outfitted with inductive wireless charging technology.  As hybrids, the buses also have a diesel engine they can fall back on whenever their battery gets depleted, so the idea behind the wireless re-charging is to cut down on fossil fuel emissions by allowing the buses to run in pure electric mode as long and as often as possible.

The project is being partially funded by the Zero Emissions Urban Bus System (ZeEUS), a network of eight demonstration projects across six European countries that aims to create better-coordinated, energy-efficient, and all-electric urban bus networks.

TfL didn’t disclose how much they expect the trial to reduce carbon emissions, air pollution, and fuel costs, but they did say they anticipate the buses would make use of their diesel engines “only be a small amount of the time.”

“This trial of extended-range diesel-electric hybrid buses … could be a step closer to getting even cleaner double-deck buses on London’s streets,” Mike Weston, TfL’s director of buses, said in a statement.  “We will be closely monitoring the results of the trials, which may help us adopt this new cleaner technology more widely in London.”

Meanwhile, Network Rail’s battery-powered train tests are being carried out with the help of the Independently-Powered Electric Multiple Unit (IPEMU) project, a joint effort between Network Rail, Bombardier, the Department for Transport, and several other operators.  The idea here is to create purely electric trains that can run on railways with electrified infrastructure, and railways that don’t.

Diesel-electric trains are already becoming commonplace in Britain, but so far the “electric” part has required that electrified infrastructure along their track in order to run.  The battery-powered trains, on the other hand, could draw power in the standard fashion while running on the electrified sections of the rail system, then rely on the battery when traveling on the non-electrified portion.

The end result is a train that both relies less on fossil fuels, and that costs less to run, as it requires less electrification infrastructure.  “Over the next five years, Network Rail has a target to reduce the cost of running Britain’s railway by a further 20 per cent,” James Ambrose, Network Rail’s senior engineer leading on the IPEMU project, told the Network Rail Media Centre.  “At the same time, we are always looking for ways to make the railway greener too. This project has the potential to contribute significantly towards both those goals.”

Britain Announces Plans for the Next Generation of Emissions-Free Public Transit

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