York’s sixth Park and Ride site recently opened at Popleton Bar on the outskirts of the city. The opening made York’s scheme the biggest in the country in terms of parking spaces and meant that every major ‘A’ road into the city had a Park and Ride site where it intersected with the outer ring road. The site provides 600 car parking spaces and will reduce the number of cars within York City Centre.
|One of the new electric buses passes the iconic Clifford's tower on the Turquoise line 59 Poppleton Bar Park & Ride|
The opening of the site was also significant in that the bus service linking the site to the city is ran with a dedicated fleet of electric buses. Six Optare Versa EVs run the service, enough to allow one to be on charge during the day, meaning that the route should only use electric vehicles; the first route in Yorkshire to make such a claim. The Versas join the sole Solo EV used on the UB1 University service. Whilst the electric vehicle is predominantly used, a diesel bus is used occasionally whilst the Solo is recharged.
|York's other electric bus outside the University's Student Union building|
Electric vehicles are a fairly new phenomenon which is mostly thanks to grants courtesy of the Green Bus fund. Alongside those vehicles in service with First and Transdev, York is expecting a converted double decker for City Sightseeing duties, further Versa EVs for Park and Ride work and Solo EVs for City Council funded routes, all utilising electric propulsion. Similarly enthusiastic about electric buses is Nottingham County Council, who have invested in a number of electric vehicles for their Medilink, Locallink and Centrelink routes. One of the Citylink Park and Ride routes is set to follow.
|Locallink is the latest Nottingham service to go electric, after Centrelink received electric buses in 2012|
The use of such vehicles can significantly reduce emissions in City Centres. Buses do make up a large proportion of City Centre traffic, standing on Parliament Street in Nottingham or outside York Station will demonstrate just that. A lot of buses, all congregating in a small area, producing a lot of greenhouse gas. Of course, these buses are producing much fewer emissions than if all of their passengers were in private cars, but the use of electric vehicles takes these emissions out of heavily populated areas. It is naïve to think that electricity is a clean fuel, but there are sustainable and environmentally friendly ways of producing it, the same can not be said for diesel power. Despite a new, high frequency route starting in York through the 59 route, there are no more emissions.
|One of the new Versas alongside a number of other, less environmentally friendly buses outside York's Cedar Court Grand hotel|
Electric vehicles do come with their drawbacks. Often an additional vehicle has to be used to allow one to charge during the day. On Nottingham’s Centrelink route, four electric vehicles replaced three diesel ones. In addition, given the cost, a spare fleet is not practical. Diesel vehicles have been spotted on Nottingham’s Centrelink and York’s route 59 in the past weeks. In fact, electric buses are so expensive they currently seem to only be cost effective with funding from the Green Bus Fund which is obviously limited. The infrastructure that needs to be put into place to support them is also high. Despite York City Councillor David Levene claiming that all of York’s bus network could in theory be entirely electric, it is a theory that will not likely be put into practice any time soon due to cost and lack of funding. First York would require their own electricity substation in order to have an electric bus operation of that size.
|A diesel Wrightbus Eclipse deputises on an electric route in York...|
|...whilst a diesel Optare Excel does the same in Nottingham (though I don't foresee many complaints from the photographer!)|
However, electric buses are a positive thing and a step towards more sustainable travel. There are environmentally friendly and city centre friendly whilst still providing the same internal environment to passengers as a standard bus. They may not be suitable for all routes, particularly longer distance ones, but given the developments in recent years this may well change in the future. Diesel will not last forever and having a bus manufacturing industry that is pioneering new technologies is an incredibly positive thing. Electric buses may be a relatively new concept, but their future is a very positive one.
|A sign of the future? Two electric buses and an electric car wait at York's newest Park and Ride site at Poppleton Bar|