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Image courtesy of Golden Arrow Bus Services

Clean Transport

Cape Town-Based Golden Arrow Bus Services Rolls Out Electric Bus Pilot Study

Cape Town-based Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS), one of South Africa’s large mass transit intra-city bus service companies, is currently running a pilot study for electric buses on its routes. GABS has been providing road based public transport to the community of Cape Town for 160 years and currently employs more than 2,500 people. Its fleet of 1,171  internal combustion engine buses serve over 220,000 passengers per day along 1,300 routes.

On average, a bus travels 60,000 km per year. For this amount of travel per year, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for electric vehicles could be quite attractive. The GABS pilot study will give it a real life case study on this and more. GABS wants to test electric buses practically, under local conditions, to compare real South African data and to test whether introducing electric buses will be commercially viable for its operations. The company is also very keen on reducing its carbon footprint and has already installed solar plants at its depots.

“We operate from four major depots and three smaller depots in the Cape Town area. The first solar installation was done in 2017. To date we have installed just over 1MWp solar generating capacity spread over three of our depots. Our Epping depot has 820 kWp of PV generating capacity,” says Golden Arrow’s Gideon Neethling. The main driver for installing solar at its depots starting around 2017 was to save on electricity costs. Grid-tied solar systems offer significant savings on commercial & and industrial consumers’ electricity bills in South Africa.

GABS is using two BYD K9UR electric buses in the pilot. It had initially been testing one bus without any passengers, while the other bus was being tested on routes while it was loaded with sand bags, equivalent to 44 passengers in weight. “It is good for us to get the energy consumption of an empty vehicle versus a bus that carries 44 passengers.” GABS has now deployed the buses on some of its routes with passengers onboard since early July. GABS exports some of the electricity from two of the three depots where it has installed solar. Depending on the scheduling, they could charge some of the buses with cheaper solar energy at these depots to complement the usual overnight charging during the buses’ downtime.

The BYD K9UR Bus has the following specs:

MOTOR TYPE AC synchronous permanent magnet
MAX TORQUE 550Nm x 2

Golden Arrow’s pilot study is part funded by South Africa’s uYilo Kickstart Fund, which we covered recently.

GABS will be publishing reports from its pilot project periodically and we look forward to this data. Data from a real life case study in this part of the world will be really useful to help drive adoption.

Image courtesy of Golden Arrow Bus Services

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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.


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