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Diesel bus conversion to EVs branded failure


03 April 2020

A project in York to convert diesel tour buses to battery electric operation has been a failure.

The City of York Council received funding in 2013 to convert six of Transdev’s open-top buses from diesel to battery electric. The first bus was converted in 2014 and three more conversions took place over the following two years. Conversion of the final two buses has never taken place, however, and £190,000 of the grant remains unspent.

Neil Ferris, York’s director of economy and place, told councillors: “Unfortunately, despite best efforts, performance of the retrofitted electric buses on the ground has not met an acceptable threshold of reliability, and vehicle availability has been poor, causing operational issues for the service – particularly the need to maintain a parc of diesel spare buses to step in to provide the service when availability of the electric buses is poor. 

“Regrettably, the operator’s costs and operational challenges are so high it has concluded that the project has not been successful in its primary objective.”

Ferris said York’s experience was not unique “with a project at another historic UK city suffering problems with the supply of retrofitted electric buses”. 

The diesel tour buses will soon be non-compliant with York’s bus-based clean air zone. From 31 January next year buses will have to be Euro VI diesel or better.

The failure of the retrofitting has not put the council off electric buses. The park-and-ride network is becoming fully electric with 21 buses being delivered. 

York is to prepare a bid to the DfT’s electric bus town competition. “Longer routes may not be suitable for conversion to fully electric buses, but would instead use hybrid technology to operate under electric power in the York urban area, but diesel in the rural areas surrounding York,” said Ferris.

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