Travel De Courcey Optare Versa EVs are largest electric buses in Britain – new fast charging system could double range

With a passenger capacity in excess of 50, a trio of Optare Versa EV’s, now entering service with Travel De Courcey in Coventry, are the largest battery-powered electric buses on Britain’s roads.

The buses were handed over to Travel De Courcey by Optare’s Sales Director, John Horn, at an event in Coventry yesterday, Wednesday 13 June, attended by Norman Baker MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport

The Versa EVs are being supported in service by ABB’s Terra 51 fast charging station which can charge electric vehicle batteries to full capacity in less than two hours compared to the standard six to eight hours from a normal charge. This offers the ability to recharge the batteries during the day as well as overnight, which provides the potential to double the daily range of the buses, which is between 75 and 95 miles on a single overnight charge.

Operating costs of the Versa EV’s are exceptionally low too when compared with an equivalent diesel powered bus. Using current off-peak electricity pricing figures a full charge can be achieved for as little as £6.40.

Glenn Saint, Chief Technical Officer at Optare, said: “This is a really exciting breakthrough in the development of EV technology in the UK bus industry, which we have been pioneering at Optare for the past three years.

“A limiting factor in the introduction of electric buses in Britain has been around the time it takes to recharge an EV battery. With the fast charger a bus can be easily charged during a lunchtime layover or at other quiet periods in its schedule. In the Coventry Park and Ride operation, on which these buses are being used, charge stations have been installed at both ends of the route to allow opportunity charging throughout the working day without the buses having to return to base.”

The 11 metre Versa EVs have a seating capacity of 34, which with standees results in a total carrying capacity of over 50. This makes them the largest battery-powered electric buses currently in service in Britain. They also present strong environmental credentials with their zero tailpipe emissions meaning no PM10s, no nitrogen oxide, no carbon monoxide and no carbon dioxide. Electric power also results in near silent operation!

The drivetrain in the Optare Versa EV is an Enova Systems P120 ‘Zero Emissions’ Electric Vehicle drive system with summation gearbox. This provides 120 kW of power and 650 Nm of torque, sufficient for the most arduous of operating conditions. Energy storage is provided by 56 Valance maintenance-free Lithium Ion/Magnesium Phospate batteries. During service recharging is provided by an on-board charging capability using regenerative braking.

De Courcey Travel are using the Versa EVs on the well patronised 400 vehicle Coventry South Park and Ride scheme with journeys into the city centre at 12 minute intervals at peak times.

Travel De Courcey has invested £400,000 in the project. Additional funding for the buses has come from the Government’s Green Bus Fund, which provided £300,000, and from Centro, the West Midlands ITA, which contributed £100,000. Coventry City Council has met the cost of installing the fast charging infrastructure.

The company’s Operations Director, Bob Wildman, is very enthusiastic about the project saying that it brings a new level of passenger comfort and environmental benefits to bus operation in Coventry. “Once again Travel De Courcey is setting the pace for high standards of passenger service and the introduction of the latest vehicles and technology.”


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