One constant on London’s labyrinthine streets over the last century has been its iconic red double-deckers buses—but they may soon be going green. The city announced plans Monday to trial its first all-electric double-decker bus in October.
The bus will be built by Chinese firm BYD and will run on the number 16 bus route, which goes from northwest London down into Victoria Station. London has had single-decker electric buses on its streets since 2013, but electric double-deckers had previously been thought to be too difficult to build, due to the challenges in efficiently powering something so large, the Mayor’s office said in a release. But BYD’s new battery technology will apparently be light and cheap enough to run in a double-decker bus.
The Mayor’s office told Quartz that Mayor Boris Johnson has rolled out over 1,300 hybrid buses since 2008. However, even with traffic restrictions that have been put in place over the years, and the congestion charge that was implemented in the city over a decade ago, London’s main thoroughfares are consistently jammed with buses emitting diesel fumes. The city’s main shopping street, Oxford Street, was recently found by King’s College to be one of the most polluted streets in the world.
Johnson introduced a new fleet of Routemaster double-decker buses in 2012, with over 800 hop-on-hop-off buses expected to be in service by next year. While the buses have been a boon for Londoners who want to get off wherever they like, the Guardian points out that these hybrid vehicles will not meet the Mayor’s new air-quality standards for vehicles in London’s city center, which probably influenced the city’s decision to trial these new buses.
Johnson, who uses the city’s bike-share system to commute to work most days, told the Guardian that he would welcome the quieter, greener buses on his city’s streets, saying current buses are like “throbbing, belching machines that emit their fumes like wounded war-elephants”.
The Mayor’s office said it’s also going to test inductive charging for electric buses beginning in October. This means the buses will be able to recharge wirelessly when parked over charging spots.
The 312 bus route, from Croydon to Norwood in the south of London, will become the city’s first all-electric route later in the year, the Mayor’s office also announced.