The double-deck Volvo BZL Electric demonstrator has proven its performance capabilities after being put to ‘the ultimate test’ by First South Yorkshire.
Volvo Buses’ double-deck BZL Electric demonstrator was on loan to First South Yorkshire for three weeks before being swapped out for the single deck model. The operator tested the two vehicles on Route 51, travelling through Sheffield city centre between Lodge Moor and Charnock, running for 18 hours and 180 miles a day.
Andy Metcalfe, Fleet Manager at First Bus, says: “We’ve been using this route as a testbed for decades because of the gradients involved, it goes from about 1,000ft above sea level on one side of the city, down through the city centre, and back up to about 800ft above sea level on the other side.
“We recognise that if a vehicle performs well on this route, it should be able to perform anywhere across the city, and the Volvo BZL Electric has been compliant with everything we’ve asked of it. When the vehicle comes back to the depot when it’s close to midnight there has been at least 20 per cent of charge left.”
Prior to the vehicles being delivered, a route analysis was conducted by Volvo Buses to provide further insight into the performance that would be achieved by the Volvo BZL. The demanding route meant that the buses were leaving the depot typically at 06:30 in the morning and returning by midnight.
First South Yorkshire’s existing fleet of 330 buses is predominantly Volvo which, despite the BZL Electric’s vastly advanced technology, provides an element of familiarity for drivers.
Metcalfe continues: “The driveability and smoothness of the BZL Electric is good, and the steering is very responsive, precise, smooth and light, with low noise levels and a spacious layout, these attributes would all add to an excellent journey experience for our customers.
“Our existing relationship with Volvo Buses remains strong and they offer a very good support network, we’ve had great parts supply and communication with our local dealer Crossroads Truck & Bus over the years. I’m certainly hopeful that we will be able to offer zero-tailpipe emission public transport in Sheffield in the future.”
Both the single and double-deck Volvo BZL Electric buses trialled by First Bus featured a five-battery configuration, that were recharged using a portable charger at the local bus depot overnight. The vehicles’ 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.
As with other locations, the striking blue and white livery, sporting the words ‘go electric with Volvo’, was well received by the local community and online, with social media users posting pictures across platforms such as X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook. The double-deck also attracted the attention of Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, who was complimentary about his experience on the bus.
First South Yorkshire is a subsidiary of First Bus (a division of FirstGroup) and operates services in Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. The vehicles run from two depots, Olive Grove in Sheffield and Leger Way in Doncaster. As a group, First Bus is one of the UK’s largest bus operators, with a fleet of more than 4,500 buses carrying over a million passengers a day. The group also pledged not to purchase any new diesel buses after December 2022.