Zero emissions bus 09/03/2020 Picture by Ed Nix

Oxford Bus Company puts its first electrified open-topper into service

The Oxford Bus Company has put the first of five newly electrified open-top double-deckers — a 17-year-old Volvo B7TL — into service on its City Sightseeing Tour.


£2.2million funding for the conversions, and for upgrading 71 diesel buses to Euro6 emission standards, has come via Oxford City Council from the UK government’s Clean Bus Technology Fund. So far 65 of the diesel upgrades under this programme.


It forms part of a strategy to reduce air pollution in Oxford, which has seen Oxford Bus Company invest £350,000 into upgrades. This included an investment of £80,000 to install the charging equipment for the City Sightseeing buses, including a battery storage system to harness the energy produced by solar panels on the depot roof.


The upgrades are part of the Oxford Bus Company’s strategy to be as environmentally friendly as possible. It is also part of Oxford City Council’s commitment to continue to reduce levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the city. In Oxford city centre there has been a 36.8%  drop in NOlevels at roadside over the past 10 years. A key contributor to the reduction has been the city centre low emission zone for buses, which was introduced in 2014. In January this year, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council announced the final draft proposals on the Red Zone for the UK’s first city centre zero-emission zone, which could begin in December this year.


Oxford Bus Company managing director Phil Southall says: “This electric double-decker is an exciting landmark day in Oxford’s journey towards improving air quality in the city via the introduction of more sustainable modes of transport. We’re proud to deliver it in partnership with Oxford City Council. We have always been committed to being at the forefront of the industry on environmental technology innovation and over half of our buses are powered by hybrid technology.


“At this stage, battery technology is not yet advanced enough to power buses for a full day’s service on the majority of our routes. However, our City Sightseeing Oxford service runs for fewer hours per day and for lower mileage than our other services, so we’re delighted to be able to convert these buses. Over time, our whole fleet of City Sightseeing Oxford buses will be either zero or ultra-low emission, and our entire fleet of vehicles will be upgraded to ultra-low emission standard.”


Cllr Tom Hayes, cabinet member for Zero Carbon Oxford, says: “I am thrilled that Oxford’s first electric open-top double-decker bus has arrived. This is the year that we will see the start of the Oxford Zero Emission Zone – the UK’s first city centre zero-emission zone. I am delighted by working together with Oxford Bus Company that we can introduce a more sustainable bus fleet to Oxford. Cleaner buses mean that we will have cleaner air and improved health for everyone living, working, and commuting in the city. I am looking forward to seeing more electric buses on the roads of Oxford in the future.”


Councillor Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for environment, says: “The delivery of this new electric bus comes at a time when our councils are determined to take concerted climate action to cut vehicle air pollution and expand the provision of bus services with our Connecting Oxford plan. The expansion of electric bus provision for tourists and residents in Oxford is a clear sign of our commitment to offer our residents a clean and environmentally sustainable future.”


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