Friday 30 July 2021

The Launch of UK’S First Rural Electric Bus Fleet

The UK’s first fleet of six fully electric buses serving rural communities have been launched, in partnership with transport group Stagecoach West Scotland to support reducing Scotland’s overall CO2 emissions. They will contribute to the country’s Net Zero strategy and improve air quality in our towns and villages.

Five of the six new all-electric buses were funded by £2million from the 
SP Energy Networks £20million Green Economy Fund and will operate on a Stagecoach West Scotland route connecting villages along the Irvine Valley with Kilmarnock town centre. 
Due to the length of the rural bus route, this project will be the first in Scotland to introduce opportunity charging where buses benefit from rapid and intense charges of power on route, rather than the traditional technique that sees buses charging overnight for hours at a time.

The introduction of Scotland’s first 'pantograph' charging point at Kilmarnock Bus Station will provide the on-route charging for the new electric vehicles. This fast-charging point supplies the power through special electrical connectors built into the roof of the zero-emissions electric buses. The new innovative opportunity charging point is leading the way for the roll-out of electric infrastructure in East Ayrshire allowing for charging across 24 hours and more flexibility for transport operators.

Stagecoach West Scotland’s new zero-emissions buses will save around 680 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually and will provide bus riders with a smoother and quieter experience as well as improving the air quality in Kilmarnock and those rural areas serviced by the buses.

The launch of Stagecoach West Scotland’s electric fleet will play a big role in Kilmarnock’s green transport infrastructure and the new opportunity charging buses can travel up to 100 zero-emission miles on a full charge. 
Using opportunity charging, a full day’s service with a daily distance of up to 270 miles will be covered per vehicle. The new electric buses were built by Volvo and will benefit from opportunity charging of 300KW.

Through the Green Economy Fund, SP Energy are investing in the communities that we serve to support the UK and Scottish governments’ green energy ambitions. The fund also contributes to government plans to meet climate change targets, boost local economic growth, improve air quality across the country and deliver a better future, quicker for our communities.

Willie Coffey, MSP for Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley, who attended the official launch of the new electric fleet at Kilmarnock Football Club, said: “Launching the UK’s first fleet of fully electric buses serving rural communities around Loudoun Valley is a historic moment for East Ayrshire. Providing people with more environmentally-friendly public transport and cleaner air is paramount for Scotland and Kilmarnock is leading the way for a new era of electric bus services.

The buses will use opportunity charging via a pantograph at Kilmarnock Bus Station

“This all-electric service will help the country to develop the green transport network of the future and support jobs right here in Scotland alongside supporting Kilmarnock bus users and the environment.

“The major funding from SP Energy Networks to launch Stagecoach’s electric fleet will significantly speed up the transition to zero-emission buses.”

Alan Brown, MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, who also attended the official launch of the new electric buses said: “This is really exciting news for Kilmarnock and a huge step towards becoming an all-electric public transport region. The funding from SP Energy Networks will ensure that more local people can contribute towards climate change by choosing to use electric public transport.

“The new charging hub at Kilmarnock bus station also means that our public transport network can get ready to go electric, reducing emissions and future-proofing East Ayrshire”.

Our CEO, Frank Mitchell, said: “As Scotland continues to restart its economy and create jobs, we want to ensure East Ayrshire remains on track to becoming one of Scotland’s cleanest, greenest and most climate-resilient regions.

“Stagecoach’s six electric buses and charging hub are key to delivering electric transport in the region. Using the innovative work taking place in Kilmarnock as a blueprint for the first zero-emissions buses serving rural communities, we can work together to build a healthier and greener Scotland, as well as enhancing public transport experience for local people.

“At SP Energy Networks, we are ensuring the roll out of electric vehicles and charging happens fairly across urban and rural areas, so that no communities are left behind in the road to Net Zero. Helping communities build their own green economy is at the heart of our Green Economy Fund and as a Principal Partner for the COP26 global climate change conference we’re proud to be leading the way with this investment.”

Fiona Doherty, Managing Director at Stagecoach West Scotland, said: “This is a great day for the team at Stagecoach West Scotland and we are very proud to have worked in partnership with SP Energy Networks’ Green Economy Fund to secure the investment needed to launch the UK’s first fleet of fully electric buses serving our rural communities in Kilmarnock. Traditionally electric buses have only ever been used on urban routes and this is a fantastic opportunity for Stagecoach and its partners to show that fully electric vehicles can be used across more challenging, non-urban routes.

“Stagecoach is the UK’s biggest investor in hybrid-electric bus technology, and we have invested more than £1billion in new greener buses over the past decade. Without Stagecoach bus services, there would be an annual increase of 190,000 tonnes of CO2 through passengers using alternative transport. Approximately £343million in potential congestion-related savings are also delivered by Stagecoach through a reduction of 1.22 billion miles of traffic, and the introduction of Kilmarnock’s first fully electric decker buses will deliver major benefits for the region and our customers.

“The introduction of the new opportunity charge buses across Kilmarnock further cements our commitment to meet the requirements of the Scottish Government and East Ayrshire Council’s climate change strategies. There is no other comparable project in the UK with other electric vehicle routes either on urban or low mileage rural routes.”

The new vehicles also have USB charging points, interior LED lights and benefit from a low noise level to provide a better overall customer experience.