UK’s first solar-powered bus fleet to launch in Brighton

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Big Lemon, the Community Interest Company who run buses in Brighton on waste cooking oil from local restaurants, has announced its next step – launching a fleet of solar-powered buses that are charged within the bus station.

Solar panels will be installed onto the roof of the company’s east Brighton bus depot. storing energy in batteries and then charging the vehicles overnight when they’re not in service.

Its existing biodiesel buses were converted from diesel models, but are not suitable for further conversion to be solar-powered. Instead, 10 of these buses will be replaced with new vehicles. Rather than buy electric buses outright however, they will be converted from diesel also – as the company says this still works out cheaper.

Alongside these costs, Big Lemon estimates a £20,000 annual fuel saving, and a reduction in maintenance costs. They estimate a six-year payback on the vehicles, and a life span of eight years.

The key thing that differentiates Big Lemon’s plans from existing electric bus technologies is that the energy will be generated on-site. “Electric bus technology has progressed quite far. We wanted to try that and embrace it,” says Tom Druitt, managing director of The Big Lemon. Biodiesel has a low carbon footprint but there are still emissions from the buses. Using electricity means almost no emissions.”

The British government has invested £30m of funding toward helping bus operators and local authorities within England run lower emission bus fleets, which have been rolled out already in London and Harrogate.

The first panels will generate 30,000kWh of electricity (that’s the equivalent of 1.8million kettle boils!), powering a route between Woodingdean and Brighton city centre. If deemed to be a success, from there, all five of the company’s routes will look to be replaced with solar powered models, with their coach routes continuing to run on waste cooking oil.

If there’s not a green bus headed your route for your commute or trip, you can still save emissions and pounds by going green – just liftshare instead!

Photo credit: The Big Lemon

Author Lex Barber

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