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PHOTO CAPTION: Optare Solo EV bus has range of around 60 miles on a charge.

UK's Optare Introduces Solo EV Electric Bus

Powered by Valence lithium ion batteries, the Solo EV can carry up to 54 passengers and is being marketed to airports.

Published: 04-Apr-2009

Airports seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint may want to take a look at the UK’s first practical full-size electric bus now available from the leading British bus manufacturer Optare.

Based on the well-proven Solo model, the Solo EV is a low floor bus that can seat up to 33 passengers plus standees, is compliant with the latest disability legislation, and uses a drivetrain that is fully zero emission. This means zero exhaust pollution: no PM10s, no nitrogen oxide, no carbon monoxide and no carbon dioxide. It’s also near silent in operation!

There is a strong commercial case for the new vehicle too. Fuel costs are considered to be half those of a similar size of diesel powered bus and the relative simplicity of the propulsion system is expected to reap benefits in much lower maintenance costs. In addition the robustness of the main components, allied to Solo’s highly durable integral construction, is expected to result in a significantly longer lifespan for the Solo EV. Savings in annual running costs alone are estimated to be in excess of £8,000 a year compared to a diesel-powered equivalent.

Rising fuel prices and the introduction of low emission zones are indicators of the scale of concern today for the environment, which is placing increasing pressure on fleet managers to lower their emissions. Within this context the Solo EV can help airport operators to meet their environmental commitments.

The Solo EV has been designed to perform exactly like a standard diesel engined bus, except that it is smoother, quieter and cleaner. It is completely traffic compatible, with good acceleration and hill climbing capabilities and a top speed of up to 90 km/hour.

The range is around 60 miles on a full overnight charge and in normal operating conditions. However, the flat conditions associated with airports will contribute to extending this range. This makes the Solo EV ideally suited to any airport duties where journey distances are short and daily mileages low. These could include airside crew and passenger transfers and terminal to car park shuttles.

Solo EV is a progression of the well known Solo family of buses of which well over 3,000 are in service worldwide. It is available in lengths of 8.1m, 8.8m and 9.5m and widths of either 2.3m or 2.5m, giving passenger capacities of up to 54 (33 seated plus 21 standing in the 9.5 metre model). Bodywork is based on the well proven and low-weight Solo design and the change from diesel to electric drive adds only 480kg to the unladen weight so there is no loss of carrying capacity when compared to the diesel equivalent.

The electric power pack comprises an Enova Systems P120 AC induction motor rated at 120kW and powered by two banks of Valence Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries. Chosen for their safe and long-life technology, the batteries work in parallel and provide 307volts and a total of 80kW/hour of energy. They are housed in two steel crates set either side of the centrally mounted motor for excellent weight distribution and can be easily removed.

The drivetrain is much simpler than that of its diesel counterpart with the engine and gearbox being replaced by a motor driving the rear wheels. This is used as a generator under braking conditions to achieve retardation and recover up to 60 kW of energy back into the batteries, which both increases vehicle range and reduces brake component wear.

A battery management system continuously monitors battery condition and indicates the state of charge and potential system faults. An on-board charger can be plugged into a standard 3 phase outlet and a full charge achieved in less than eight hours. Overnight charging yields the greatest economy by taking advantage of low rate electricity and at current electricity prices it is anticipated that a full vehicle charge can be achieved for £6.40.

Servicing is simplified because the electric engine has only three moving parts compared to over a 1000 in a combustion engine, so there is less to repair or go wrong. Maintenance time and costs are also lower because there is no oil and filter change requirement and the only areas left to monitor are essentials such as tyres, lights and brakes. On-board diagnostics enable faults to be readily traced through system monitoring whilst in service or back at the depot.

Services which feature low speeds and a relatively high percentage of idling will be able to take best advantage of the Solo EV’s good acceleration, quiet running and low “at rest” power consumption. Operators who factor in the low lifetime fuel and service costs at the time of the initial purchase decision will be able to realise the full potential of the Solo EV.

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