Tag Archives: ev

Translink Brings Zero Emission Public Transport to Northern Ireland

On a sunny spring evening in April, Translink kindly hosted members of EVANI (Electric Vehicle Association of Northern Ireland) at their bus depot Milewater Service Centre in Belfast. Translink is the public corporation for public transport in Northern Ireland and manages a fleet of 1,400 buses, coaches and trains carrying 1.5 million passengers every week.  With key emission targets for 2030 and beyond, Translink is preparing now for a future of zero-emission public transport with electric and hydrogen-powered double-decker buses.

After an initial pilot of three hydrogen-fuelled buses in 2020, Translink started its green journey in earnest with the purchase of 80 battery buses and a further 20 hydrogen buses in 2022. Another 100 buses are expected in 2024 and Translink doesn’t expect to ever buy another diesel bus. Handily, one of the leading manufacturers of buses, Wrightbus, is based a few miles north in Ballymena. The transition to zero-emissions not only requires the vehicles but the infrastructure to support them with an equivalent number of charge points and hydrogen storage facilities on the Milewater site.

Constraints on the power supply to the charging stations mean that intelligent software is used to ensure that battery-powered bus charging is matched to departure schedules (i.e. those buses leaving next are charged first) but otherwise it’s very similar to charging an EV car overnight: the 150 kW chargers even use the same plug and socket as an ordinary car (CCS2).

When it comes to hydrogen-fuelled buses, these are electric vehicles too, only they use a fuel cell to combine stored hydrogen with atmospheric oxygen to produce electricity and water, which pours out of the rear of the vehicle. I was most surprised at the amount of water produced – it’s more than you’d think – here’s a short video. The hydrogen is shipped in at the moment, but a nearby wind farm in County Antrim is setting up a hydrogen plant which will make deliveries much more convenient.

In comparison, the range of battery v hydrogen power isn’t that different, being somewhere about 200 miles. The big difference is that charging the batteries has to occur overnight, taking several hours, whereas a hydrogen bus can be refuelled in under 10 minutes. The battery powered buses work well within the urban environments, with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles potentially taking on the role for inter-city and rural transport. The new buses aren’t cheap though, with the fuel cell ones costing twice the equivalent diesel bus. However, the expectation is that reduced maintenance costs and extended lifespan will reduce the total cost of ownership.

The transition hasn’t been easy with several challenges. Obviously, it’s new technology with unknown infrastructure issues and limitations on the overall power supply to the site. Batteries were delayed because of the pandemic, and Translink had to work closely with Chargepoint to optimise the charging software. Learning the characteristics of batteries, especially in cold weather has been important as well, but a measure of the success of the move is that no bus has ever run out of charge while in service. Dealing with hydrogen had a different set of challenges, but by applying standards carefully and diligently, the buses can be worked on safely. The drivers and passengers have taken well to the buses, enjoying the quietness, lack of exhaust fumes and absence of vibrations.

Translink aren’t only looking to road transport for zero emissions. It’s early stages now, but a detailed assessment is on track for the required infrastructure and costs to electrify the rail network in the next decade.

The population of Northern Ireland is under 2 million people and the foresight of the team in Translink is a credit to the region: the corporation has the fourth largest zero emission fleet of vehicles in the UK. When you think of the other major transport networks in the country, such as Transport for London, this is a major achievement and it’s exciting for Northern Ireland to be in the vanguard for the future of public transport.

With many thanks to William, Martin and Ian at Translink for spending their evening with us.

Safety First with the Babel Bike

British Inventors ProjectSafety (or lack thereof) is one of the main reasons cited why people don’t take up cycling for commuting and with over 20,000 bike accidents in London alone in 2013, it’s a reasonable concern. To prevent the most common cycling accidents, the Babel Bike has been designed for a new era of cycling safety with innovative features​ including a safety cage, seat belts and integrated lights. First shown at Gadget Show Live, the Babel Bike is launching on Indiegogo today, hoping to raise £50,000.

Babel Bike

Babel-Logo-GIFCrispin Sinclair at Sinclair Innovation, founder of Babel Bikes explains, “Our dream is to put a million more cyclists on our roads, and therefore take a million cars off them, and to do that we need to give cyclists their safety back. As a recent report put it ‘If we can tackle the safety issue, we could open the floodgates to a new era of mass cycling participation’, and that is exactly what we hope to do and with the help of the Indiegogo community.”

The bike has a custom-built frame and seat with the rider enclosed in an advanced safety cell and seatbelt restraint. Additional safety equipment includes Front and rear lights, indicators, brake lights and rear view mirrors. No mention of wet weather gear which would certainly help with the other reason for not cycling to work in Britain.

The Babel Bike isn’t cheap at £1,999 for the pedal-powered version and £2,999 for the electric version and if you are interested get in early for the best offers at Indiegogo. Delivery is expected in May 2016.

Nissan Leaf Electric Vehicle

The Nissan Leaf is expected to be the first “normal” electric car and by the brief look I had today at Charles Hurst Nissan, it’s certainly not far off the mark.

To start with, it looks like a normal four door family saloon. Perhaps a little on the small side for US folk, but perfectly normal in Europe.

Inside, it’s a gadget-lovers dream – electronic dash, GPS, Bluetooth, the works. If you were expecting an electric car to be frugal with the juice, think again.

The gear stick only has three positions – park, forward and reverse – and is finished in a crystal blue that looks pretty good. In the picture, it’s the object in the bottom left.

The interior is pretty roomy, again by European standards. There’s plenty of space for four adults.

Moving round to the boot (trunk), there’s room to get the shopping in or a couple of suitcases.

That is the portable charger you can see in there. Plugs into any UK domestic 230V 3 pin socket.

Which brings us round to the front of the car. Just below the bonnet (hood), there’s a small flap which opens up to show two charging ports. The one on the right is for normal home or domestic charging, the one on the left is for commercial fast charging. Think petrol station for electric vehicles.

On the roof at the rear, there’s an optional rear roof spoiler with a solar panel which can charge the battery. From the size of the panel, I think you’d be waiting awhile to charge from flat, but I suppose every little bit helps.

Chatting to the salesman, he was using the Leaf as his daily car. He felt that the range of 100 miles was realistic and the regenerative braking was effective in returning power to the battery (and stopping the car!). The torque (acceleration) was good and the car easily kept up with other cars on the round. While he’d only driven it up to 70 mph – that’s the legal limit in the UK – the Leaf wasn’t struggling and would reach its top speed of 96 mph.

I would buy one of these in heartbeat – my daily commute is about 7 miles each way and I perhaps drive another 10 miles in the day visiting other businesses, so the 100 mile range would be no limitation. The only snag is the price. At £26,000, it’s nearly three times the price of my daily runabout when it was new and that’s even with a £5,000 discount from the UK Government for EVs. But with petrol prices being what they are – the UK pays about £1.35 per litre, that’s about $7.67 per US gallon – you can see that it can begin to look much more attractive. If the prices come down, I can see that EVs like the Leaf will sell very well as second cars for commuting and school runs.

Sitting next to the Leaf was another exciting Nissan – the GTR. Slightly different approach to motoring, mind you.

Thanks again to everyone at Charles Hurst Nissan in Belfast.


GE EV Watt Car Charging Station

Jeffrey Powers talks to David Wang and Joshua Caillavet of General Electric about the GE EV Watt station, which is a charging station for electric cars. This is a level 2 charger, operating from 240V, rather than 110V, giving shorter recharge times for EVs (electric vehicles), say 4 to 8 hours, rather than 15 to 18 hours associated with a level 1 charger.

Fortunately, common sense seems to have prevailed with electric cars and a charging connector standard has been agreed by the manufacturers, so there shouldn’t be any compatibility problems between chargers and EVs.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast.

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