London Gets World’s First Double-Decker Electric Buses, Clean Bus Summit Starts With A Bang

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Some of Europe’s most high-profile landmarks are going for cleantech in a high-visibility way, and the latest one to cross our radar is London’s iconic double-decker bus. The city’s well known bus Route 16 to Victoria Station is going to get the world’s first fleet of double-decker electric buses on a trial basis, and you won’t have to hold your breath for long. The new double-deckers are slated to begin service in October.

electric buses double decker London

The BYD Electric Bus

The London transportation agency TFL (Transportation for London) has already launched the next iteration of its iconic Routemaster double-decker bus as a low-emission diesel-electric hybrid, and the all-electric venture launches the double-decker into ultra-low emission territory.

TFL didn’t mess around when it went shopping for a cleantech upgrade to its double-decker fleet. It went straight to the Chinese electric bus manufacturer BYD.

BYD bills its electric bus as the “most popular electric transit vehicle on the planet,” and it is accumulating the stats to back that up.

So far, the company has manufactured more than 5,000 electric buses, which, as of April 2015, have logged more than 50 million miles of service. Altogether, the buses have been tested out in more than 150 cities.

The big question is, can electric batteries pull through on performance when handling the extra weight of a double-decker bus?

For one answer, you can check out the fleet of all-electric garbage trucks commissioned by the US city of Chicago. Each truck is designed to haul 9 tons of trash per route.

Here’s the answer from the office of London Mayor Boris Johnson, who announced the new double-decker:

Many believed that a purely electric double-deck bus would not be possible due to the size of battery packs required to power it. However, by working with BYD and utilising the latest cutting edge technology London has been able to secure another world-first.

Most likely, Mayor Johnson is referring to BYD’s proprietary iron-phosphate batteries, supported by energy recovery through regenerative breaking.

We’re also guessing that the trial will be a whopping success, based on BYD’s range progress on single-decker buses. Just last March, the company unwrapped a new long-range electric bus with a range of 190 miles.


Just One Piece Of The Low-Emission Bus Pie

If you heard a loud thumping sound last week, that was probably BYD and other electric bus manufacturers jumping for joy at the Clean Bus Summit in London, where the double-decker trial was announced. Route 16 is peanuts compared to the global goal. At the summit, 24 major global cities committed to get 40,000 ultra-low emission buses on the road by 2020.

In addition to support from BYD, Volvo, Wright Bus, Optare Mercedes Evo Bus, and the company Alexander Dennis also signed on to the pledge.

As a companion to the introduction of more electric buses, TFL will also embark on a wireless charging pilot project on Route 69 this October (check out Berlin for another example of wireless bus charging).

The capital has also pioneered new technologies such as hydrogen and electric buses.

Oh, Right — Tesla!

How can we possibly do a whole article on electric transportation without mentioning Tesla? Actually we can, but for what it’s worth, if BYD can’t beat Tesla in the global passenger car market, it may always have buses. Tesla doesn’t seem to be heading in that direction, at least not yet.

Legendary US investor Warren Buffett is apparently still a BYD believer, despite rumors earlier this year that he was selling his stake in the company.

BYD also offers a fleet of stationary energy storage systems based on its iron-phosphate technology, which appears to be in the running to compete with Tesla’s Powerwall battery.

Tourism & Clean Tech

Back to the subject at hand, we’re expecting to see more (much more) cleantech pop up in urban tourist destinations, as cities compete for traveler dollars. The tourist-oriented strategy is also aimed at attracting green investors to domestic markets.

London’s choice of tourist-friendly Route 16 to highlight its electric bus trial echoes the introduction of fuel cell electric buses into the city along the ultra-touristy Route RV1, between Covent Garden and Tower Gateway.

My favorite example so far is the steampunkish micro wind turbines affixed within the Eiffel Tower in Paris, as part of a green makeover for the facility.

On the other hand, it’s hard to beat the “warm welcome” afforded to travelers crossing the border between Mexico and California. Those on foot get to amble along a meandering walkway across a constructed wetlands that uses natural systems to purify wastewater from the Otay Mesa Land Port of Entry.

If you’ve spotted any interesting cleantech on your travels — solar, wind, EV, or anything else — drop us a note in the comment thread.

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Image Credit: All-electric double-decker bus courtesy of BYD.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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