Saturday, 22 July 2023

Winchester MP Calls for Funding Following Success of Volvo Electric Bus On Park & Ride Trial

Trials of a new Volvo BZL Electric demonstrator single deck bus with MCV bodywork on the Winchester Park & Ride system have proven the suitability of a new generation of vehicle to service the cathedral city, situated on the edge of the picturesque South Downs National Park.

Volvo Buses teamed up with local operator Stagecoach South for the trial, deploying a Volvo BZL Electric to serve Winchester City Council’s five designated Park & Ride car parks, clocking-up more than 2,000km over two weeks.

(l-r) Steve Brine MP, Gordon Frost Operations Director (Stagecoach South), Councillor Jan Warwick and Domenico Bondi, Managing Director of Volvo Bus UK & Ireland, with the Volvo BZL Electric demonstrator in Winchester.

Domenico Bondi, Managing Director of Volvo Bus UK & Ireland, explains: “We collaborate with operators to enable them to test our electric buses in real-life situations, enabling them to evaluate the potential that exists to electrify routes in the most responsible and sustainable way.

“In Winchester, the trial couldn’t have been more positive. The vehicle’s 376kwh battery capacity provided ample range to complete each day’s 15-hour operation without a single top-up charge being required whilst in service – and the vehicle earned excellent driver and passenger feedback. 
However, to take the next step and create a better environment for everyone in Winchester, Stagecoach South will need to have access to appropriate government-backed funding.”

Winchester MP Steve Brine commented: “Our city is a treasure trove of English heritage, so we can’t ignore the potential to operate one of the cleanest and greenest Park & Ride systems in the country to protect it. 
We already have an efficient bus system which reduces the need for cars to enter the city centre; now we need to see it electrified – and I will be looking into how more Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) funding might be made available.”

Local Councillor Jan Warwick, formerly Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Climate Change, also experienced the electric bus service and reported being very pleased with the ride quality. She supports the continued commitment to improve air quality and the health of local residents.

Above & below, The BZL with bodywork by MCV was shown at Eurobus 2022 in Birmingham

The Volvo BZL Electric deployed for the trial was equipped in a four battery configuration (five is the maximum), and the batteries were recharged overnight at the local bus depot. Throughout the trial the vehicle’s regenerative braking system enabled a proportion of the energy that would otherwise have been lost when the bus was decelerating, to be successfully recovered as free and clean energy to help power the vehicle.

Gordon Frost, Operations Director of Stagecoach South, says: “Across Stagecoach Group we’re already operating hundreds of electric vehicles, and we know first-hand the benefits they bring, not just in zero tailpipe emissions, but in reduced noise and improved passenger experience.

“Winchester’s Park & Ride service was always an opportunity suitable for transitioning to electric, and the trial with Volvo Buses has helped to prove the case. As the local bus operator, we want to make this happen – but it will require additional funding from government.”

Stagecoach West Scotland are using Volvo BZL's. MCV have bodied the vehicles

Bondi concludes: “Together with Stagecoach South, we can offer a solution for Winchester as we have done in multiple locations across the UK. We want residents, local businesses and the thousands of tourists who visit historic Winchester each year to enjoy the environmental benefits that electric buses would bring.”

The ZEBRA scheme was previously operated by the Government to provide funding contributions towards the purchase of zero tailpipe emission buses and associated vehicle charging infrastructure between April 2021 and April 2023.

The Park & Ride scheme offers 2,137 car park spaces and was developed as a way of reducing traffic volumes and the impact of traffic in the city centre.