The innovative, wireless bus that can charge from the roof

The attempt is to lower emissions and make the buses more environmentally friendly.
Brittney Grimes
A pantobus being charged at a bus garage using a pantograph.
A pantobus being charged at a bus garage using a pantograph.

TFL press release/Transport For London 

In a world first, buses in South East London have created an inventive approach to charging buses and reaching the goal of zero emissions, while remaining efficient and reliable.

The bus routes currently being tested with the new technology are 132 (Bexleyheath-North Greenwich) and 358 (Crystal Palace-Orpington). Route 132 will be receiving the electric pantobuses and route 358 will be testing out the trambuses. Both vehicles are a first in London.

Introducing the pantobus

The pantobuses are double decker buses that have an electric bar-shaped apparatus connected to the rooftops. At the route 132 bus garage, the apparatus on the bus will connect with a static pantograph, a mechanical framework delivering a current from overhead, which will charge the bus wirelessly.

The innovative, wireless bus that can charge from the roof
An example of a pantograph.

The inverted pantographs will conduct electricity between a power source and the bus, lowering itself to charge the bus when it parks directly underneath it. A 10-minute charge allows the bus to travel for 20 miles. "The introduction of the pantograph builds on the progress we have already made to run a cleaner and greener bus service,” said Seb Dance, the Deputy Mayor for Transport.

The pantobuses will still use the same batteries as standard double decker buses. Although pantographs can be found on some vehicles in London, there are a couple of differences with the ones found on the pantobuses. The first difference is that pantograph is static and not attached to the bus, and the second unique factor is that it charges the bus wirelessly instead of contacting the roof. The technology is the first in the world to charge electric double decker buses using contactless pantographs.

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The trambus and its technology

The trambus is a cross between a traditional bus and a tram, accessible in the same way that trams are, but are running on roads and not railway systems, making them essentially buses. The vehicles, operating on route 358, will also have pantographs at their two terminals, where they will recharge. The technology allows the trambuses to be lighter since they operate on batteries, as well as reducing pollution.

Since 358 is one of London’s longest routes, the new trambus could help make services more reliable and economical.

Goal to reach zero local emission

The technology that is being used by the Transport for London (TfL) is part of the plan to get to zero-emission by 2030. The company wants to have fully zero-emission buses in London by 2034, or 2030, if possible, under government funding. The commitment to creating environmentally friendly buses was outlined in the Bus Action Plan the company released in March of this year.

Currently, there are over 850 zero-emission busses in London. However, the buses can only charge in garages overnight. Using new technology, TfL will be able to charge the novel vehicles multiple times throughout the day and wants to make sure the right foundation is in place to support the ambitious goal of reaching zero-emission by 2030. “Transforming London's bus fleet is an important part of the Mayor's target of getting London to net zero by 2030, and his aim to build a better London - a fairer, greener and more prosperous city for all,” Dance stated.

The two vehicles will be tested in the upcoming months. The TfL hopes to do its part in stopping global warming through its groundbreaking technology. "The threats of toxic air, climate change and congestion are becoming clearer every day, and it's vital that we find technical solutions that help us run clean, green services that get Londoners where they need to be," said Louise Cheeseman, director at TfL.

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