Optare PLC has delivered the first of 21 battery-electric Metrodecker EV double-deckers to First York.

Story by Deepti Thore

Following the successful launch of the EV Double Decker in London with Metroline, Optare PLC, an Ashok Leyland subsidiary, has delivered the first unit of its 21 battery-electric Metrodecker EV double-deckers to First York. These have been delivered 18 months after the launch of the vehicle. The whole batch of buses expected to be delivered soon as part of 107 Metrodecker EV order Optare has received, the Metrodecker EVs are made and fully assembled at Optare’s factory in Sherburn, North Yorkshire, England. Employing more than 50 per cent of components supplied by UK businesses, they would be carrying a new blue-based brand for the York park-and-ride network. Developed from the prototype by Optare in partnership with First York and the York City Council spanning a little over three years, the Metrodecker EVs are the first of their kind to enter service with First UK Bus since the operator announced its commitment to achieve an entirely zero-emission fleet by 2035.

With the know-how, technology and experience to help cities to reduce emissions that are had from buses, Optare has been successfully developing sustainable solutions for public transport. Mentioned Vipin Sondhi, Managing Director and CEO, Ashok Leyland, that they are proud of the progress Optare has made. “The adoption of EV tech has been made easier and better,” he added. Of the opinion that Optare is leading the transformation to EV in the bus space, Sondi averred that the company would continue to be a key piece in Ashok Leyland’s overall strategy to be among the Top 10 CV makers globally.” Marking one of the biggest zero emission park and ride fleets in the UK, the metrodecker EV buses will operate on the York Park & Ride network, starting with the Askham Bar corridor to the south-west of the city. Replacing existing diesel vehicles in the First Bus fleet, the Optare Metrodecker EVs will also help the operator to further expand its electric bus fleet to 33 buses. With an investment totalling 9.3 million pounds in 21 Metrodecker EV double-decker buses, First Bus is looking at saving 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year. This is calculated based on the average of 80,000 kms travelled annually, according to sources.


Stressing on the impact of an EV fleet in reducing congestion, creating a cleaner air and supporting the local economy, Marc Bichtemann, Managing Director, First York, said, “This is an important stage in our shared ambition to expand sustainable transport in the city. We are determined to attract more customers to using buses.” As part of the overall investment, First York has spent one million pounds to upgrade the charging infrastructure at its James Street depot including a new electricity sub-station. They have been supported with 2.7 million pounds of funding secured by City of York Council from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles(OLEV). Operating nearly 30 bus routes throughout the city of York and the surrounding area, First Bus already has in its electric fleet the Optare brand of buses. These include Optare’s first battery-electric buses, Versa EVs, which entered service on the York park-and-ride network in 2014. After adopting changes in battery technology, Optare first introduced the Metrodecker EV in 2016. The York team were the initial operators of the Metrodecker on a trial basis. The trial was successful and proved that the Metrodecker concept could work in practice. They could work as a means of delivering zero-emission passenger loading to support further growth of the Park & Ride network. The York network was also the first to operate the Metrodecker EV bus after its electric drive upgrade in 2018. In fact, in 2018, the Optare Metrodecker EV was recognised by the CILT(Chartered Institute of Transport and Logistics) for its contribution to Environmental Improvement at the CILT Awards ceremony. The Optare electric fleet including vehicles like Solo and Metrocity as well, apart from the Versa and Metrodecker, the operators in the UK are being presented with a good choice of vehicles to adopt them in the interest of zero-emission passenger loading.

 


Looking upon as a perfect choice for reducing fuel costs and emissions, Optare’s electric bus range offers regenerative braking to save energy loss during deceleration. Sending back this saved energy to the batteries that power the vehicle, the Optare bus fleet also comes with an EcoDrive management system, which allows driving styles to be monitored. It provides drivers with the information they need to achieve optimum efficiency in service. With recharging costs approximately three times less than that of a diesel equivalent vehicle, the Optare electric bus, sources mention, is more cost-effective to operate than a diesel or hybrid equivalent. Having a lot of unique features that were created alongside the team at First York since its inception, the Metrodecker electric buses have the capacity to carry 98 passengers. The count has however been restricted for some time due to the Covid-19 situation, which calls for the following of health guidelines, including social distancing.

Optare Metrodecker EVs
Optare’s MetroDecker EV has won OEM of the Year (Bus/Commercial Vehicle) at the prestigious 2020 Electric Vehicle Innovation & Excellence(EVIE) Awards as per the reports. Delivering a range of around 257 kms from one overnight charge depending upon the duty cycle and equipment options, the Metrodecker electric buses can operate on the network all day without recharging. Apart from having low floor vehicle seats, these vehicles have exceptional standing capacity. Claimed to be the lightest double-deckers in their class, the Metrodeckers have a fully integral frame similar to the other vehicles in the Optare family. The standard length of the electric double-decker bus measuring around 10500 mm, width measuring around 2500 mm and height measuring around 4310 mm with two-door option, the Metrodecker double-decker buses are available with 250kW full-electric driveline option. Supplied with a ZF AVE 130 hub motor axle, the buses could be also had in a 11100 mm one door form. Equipped with maintenance-free lithium iron magnesium phosphate batteries with built-in electronic monitoring of key parameters, the Metrodecker double-decker electric buses feature a cooling system fully that has been integrated with a battery pack.


Available in left-hand drive and right-hand drive option, the Metrodecker electric double-decker buses have a 44 kW integrated on-board charger which connects to standard commercial three-phase AC supply. It takes approximately six hours of charging time from zero to full. Also provided with a 100 kW remote DC fast charger that delivers 88 kW with a charge time of approximately three hours, the buses are supplied with a cooling system fully integrated with the battery pack. The bus has a drive motor, charger and battery packs fitted to a demountable frame and with the provision of fully electric heating. Fitted with a centralised, fully multiplexed electrical system for quick, easy fault finding through diagnostics facility, the Metrodecker is furnished with audio-visual next stop announcements, wi-fi and USB charging points. Its unique integral design increases fuel efficiency and reduces costs without compromising passenger comfort. All the third party electrical systems are accessed from a dedicated area on the lower deck. The ergonomic and spacious drivers cab is fitted with its own air conditioning ensuring the driver’s comfort. All controls are within easy reach and in the driver’s line of sight, complying fully with ISO 16121.
To maximise integrity and strength, the Metrodecker EV is fitted with single-piece front and rear GRP domes and three-part bumpers with easily replaceable corner sections. Equipped with LED rear lamps and side marker lamps, the buses also have modular LED interior saloon lighting running continuously from front to rear on both sides of the upper and lower saloon for even light distribution. Each side is separately switched providing a dual level facility. Indirect LED lighting throughout also reduces glare and evokes a sense of warmth. The bus is also equipped with twin halogen, high-intensity front driving lamps. The halo entrance light and staircase panel lighting increase visibility for passengers boarding and alighting the vehicle. Handpoles curve from the seat backs to where they are integrated into the roof, accentuate the spacious upper deck. Driver’s window is enabled with a dual sliding signalling window and the bus also has a wheelchair bay with backrest. Fitted with heavy duty, sealed, slip-resistant floor covering system and flush fitting, the bus has step nosings with yellow inserts, colour contrasting with floor covering.

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