EV Revolution Hits Tourist-Friendly London Double-Decker Buses

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Last summer, the Mayor of London proudly unveiled plans to test a fleet of double-decker electric buses to ply the tourist-friendly Route 16, and things must have gone swimmingly because just last week a fleet of five of the hulking EVs was announced for Route 98. Aside from pleasing commuters and tourists alike with a quieter ride, the zero-emission buses — from China’s BYD — will help to calm a pollution hotspot in the city.

The new buses are of course tinted in London’s traditional bright red, but we’re especially interested in what’s under the hood: BYD’s proprietary iron-phosphate EV batteries.

EV London Buses travel tourism


It’s a Heavy Duty EV World…

CleanTechnica has been keeping an eye on BYD, and the London double-decker EV project is just the latest in a long string of cleantech areas of interest for the company, including both passenger and commuter-scale EVs, EV charging stations, solar energy, and energy storage.

Not too long ago, the electric bus sector was considered a challenge, but BYD is among a number of companies that have figured it out:

The buses are equipped with BYD-designed and built Iron-Phosphate batteries, delivering 345 kWh of power that come with a Industry-benchmark 12 year battery warranty, the longest electric battery warranty available. The batteries can power the bus for over 24 hours and up to 190 miles of typical urban driving on the service routes with a single daily recharging requiring only four hours.

As for power, each of the five new buses tops 33 feet long and carries a total of 81 passengers. Add climate control and that’s a heavy load, but based on the success of last year’s demonstration, it looks like electric double-decker buses have what it takes to cope with London traffic.

In addition to battery range, power, and relatively quick turnaround on charging, one key to success is the use of regenerative braking as a range extender. That technology is a perfect match for the frequent starts and stops along urban bus routes.

To gild the EV lily, London’s Deputy Mayor of Environment and Energy, Matthew Pencharz, noted that maintenance and operating costs are lower — as is typical of EV technology.

It’s getting hard to remember a time when EV critics routinely claimed that electric drive could not compete with diesel fuel for buses and other heavy-duty vehicles, but those days are long gone.

In addition to electric buses, we’re seeing electric garbage trucks, and last year, BMW rolled out a demo project for an all-electric transport truck.

The Iron-Phosphate EV Battery

As for the iron-phosphate EV battery, the BYD website is a bit coy on the details, but you can get an idea of the forces at work by taking a look at the US Energy Department’s interest in the technology.

The agency’s Argonne National Laboratory has been noodling around with lithium-iron phosphate (LiFePO4) energy storage, and in 2013 it issued the results of its findings, noting these benefits:

A simple, straightforward process that uses low-cost precursors and does not involve high energy consumption

Increased energy density and long cycle lifetime

No carbon coating is needed, which saves a processing step and reduces costs by 50%

Materials can be added at low cost without changing current scalable cathode manufacturing processes

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory offered this snapshot of the technology for EV batteries back in 2011:

EV battery

Aside from performance, the materials issue is critical from a supply chain and airborne pollutants point of view. The Energy Department, for example, foresees “strained” supplies of other emerging EV battery materials — namely, nickel and cobalt. The agency has also pointed out that lifecycle emissions of sulfur dioxide are higher for batteries that use nickel or cobalt.

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Images: top via businesswire.com, bottom via NREL.

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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.

Tina Casey has 3144 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey

7 thoughts on “EV Revolution Hits Tourist-Friendly London Double-Decker Buses

  • Why five? London Transport ordered over 50 of the internationally standard single-deckers, switching its entire fleet. These are only used in shuttle services in central London and the iconic double-decker remains the standard. Are you sure this isn’t a PR recycling of the previously announced trial?

  • Gizmodo reports price $500,000.

    • Compared to what? BYD don’t make double-decker bodies, so this is farmed out to British coachbuilder Dennis: good politics, but it probably drives up costs.

  • Great news! Now lets see lots more please!

  • So, lots of very cautious moves by various cities; but I think we’re going to see the floodgates open up for electric bus orders in the next year or two, as it becomes clear just how *great* the electric buses are. And of course, the more that cities order, *the cheaper the manufacturer can sell them*, because the manufacturer is defraying fixed costs.

    • I’d really like to see an article about the real world experiences of a city that bought them, and are 2-3 years into it, because what those guys think will influence what they buy next, and what they say to other bus guys in other cities will be very convincing. I think electric busses are very cool, but when you spend millions, and are stuck with them for years, you want a little certainty.

      • I agree. Is there any city that has had an extensive fleet of EBs for a while now? We may need to wait while the data are being accumulated.

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