London’s public transport system goes sustainable

Transport for London is integrating electric buses into its fleet and committing to renewable energy to power the transport network.
Published: Mon 23 Apr 2018

London’s public transport operator, Transport of London (TfL), is engaged in an array of initiatives to drive energy sustainability and improve the capital’s air quality.

In February 2018, it was announced that another route of the famous London red buses is going completely electric: route 153, which runs from Finsbury Park, in north London, to Moorgate in the City of London, the city’s financial centre.

Route 153 will be the fourth route across central London to be served entirely by electric buses. It is operated by Go-Ahead London on behalf of TfL. The new fleet consists of 11 single-deck Enviro200EV electric buses, jointly manufactured by Chinese auto manufacturer BYD and Scottish bus building company Alexander Dennis. The depot will be supplied by charging points manufactured by BYD.

As well as the four bus routes in central London, there are four other routes outside the city centre that operate with electric buses. Additionally, route RV1, which runs from Covent Garden to Tower Gateway, is the first route in London to be served by hydrogen buses.

The gradual introduction of electric and hydrogen buses is part of TfL’s plan to deliver around 3,000 ultra low emission double-deck buses in central London by 2019, as well as 250 zero emission single-deck buses by 2020. These buses will also significantly contribute to the reduction of the noise pollution caused by traffic.

EV charging and reducing carbon emissions in London

TfL has launched other related initiatives to significantly reduce the capital’s carbon footprint and improve its air quality.

In 2017, the first low emission bus zones were introduced in areas with the worst air quality outside central London and where buses would majorly contribute to road transport emissions.

Moreover, around 30% of the current fleet is made up of diesel-electric hybrid buses. It is estimated that these vehicles can reduce emissions by 30% to 40%.

New technologies are currently on trial to make charging of the hybrid and electric buses as efficient as possible. A new wireless charging technology is being tried on some of the buses serving one route. The participating buses are fitted with technology that enables its batteries to receive a charge boost on plates fitted at bus stands at the end of the route, which means the buses will not need to be plugged in to charge.

As well as optimising charging for electric buses, the capital is also committed to rolling out numerous electric vehicle (EV) charging points on arterial roads, streets and car parks. In addition, companies such as Shell have partnered with TfL to provide charging points in service stations across the city.

Another EV charging project being realised in London is V2Street - it will seek to provide public charging points to Londoners without access to off-street parking, expanding the charging infrastructure in the city and customer demand for EVs.

Shirley Rodrigues, London's Deputy Mayor of Environment and Energy, said, "As the Mayor moves towards making London's transport system zero-emission by 2050, TfL is working with boroughs to increase charging infrastructure across our city. The expansion we require will continue to demand strong collaboration with industry, private landowners and greater investment from Government.”

Renewables and energy efficiency

Investing in cleaner buses is only one part, albeit significant, of TfL’s strategy for sustainability. Earlier this year, TfL also announced other new measures aimed at increasing its reliability on renewable energy and energy efficiency. In a move towards integrating solar power to fulfil its energy needs, it will install 1.1MW of solar capacity on several of its buildings, including depots, bus stations and offices.

The programme, which is supposed to cost around £4.5m, will kick off early in 2019, and should save an estimated 480 tonnes of carbon emissions yearly. TfL will couple the solar panel installations with energy efficient features retrofitted on its facilities.

Solar power generation and energy efficiency retrofitting for TfL make up key elements of the Mayor of London’s Energy for Londoners programme. The scheme aims for London’s energy to come from local clean energy sources, with the goals of having 1GW of energy generated from solar by 2030.

According to the TfL Energy Purchasing Plan between 2020 to 2023 published in December 2017, the entity is setting determined goals to progressively increase renewable energy usage to power the transport network. According to the draft London Environment Strategy, TfL should aim to thoroughly decarbonise its network and achieve zero emissions by 2030.