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The week ahead: Electric racing and wireless buses

Most of you will be unfamiliar with the B1119 in Suffolk but be assured, it is an unlit country road with straights and occasional bends to rival any F1 racetrack.

Over-indulgence might have impaired memories of the Christmas break but a night time journey along the rural road will linger for long, thanks entirely to the Vauxhall Ampera in which the trip was taken.

Specifically, the driver’s insistence on demonstrating ‘sports’ mode (one of four driving options) had this passenger letting out whoops of inebriated delight and an instant conversion to the virtues of range-extended electric vehicles.

Taking power and performance a notch higher, the 8th International Low Carbon Racing Conference takes place this week at Autosport International.

In a year when ‘green’ racking takes to four wheels with the Formula E series, the conference brings together panelists including Lord Paul Drayson,founder, CEO & team principal at Drayson Racing Technologies; Adrian Moore, technical director, Xtrac; and Bernard Niclot, technical director at the FIA to discuss alternative fuels and energy, electric and hybrid vehicles, light-weighting, and sustainable materials.

The main event, Autosport International, will see around 500 exhibitors from around the world exhibit the technology and expertise that helped to generate £1.07bn of new business at the 2013 event.

Kent-based Quaife Engineering will debut new products, led by a five-speed sequential gearkit for the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V-VIII. The firm will also display a pre-production, six-speed gearkit for the new Lotus Elise S Cup R and its QKE38Z Ford IB5 sequential unit for the Fiesta and Focus.

Transport is a more of a utility for those not in a position to invest in a Vauxhall Ampera (or a Lotus) but that doesn’t mean that mass transit has to be inefficient or polluting, as an event taking place this Thursday hopes to demonstrate.

Baroness Kramer, minister of state for transport is scheduled to launch what has been described at the ‘world’s most demanding electric bus route’ in Milton Keynes.

Almost one million passengers a year will use the electric buses (pictured below) that will be expected to carry passengers for 17 hours a day, seven days a week.

The organisers say the trial ‘aims to demonstrate that a fleet of electric buses can match their diesel counterparts for endurance and cost efficiency.’

They add that the buses will be aided by wireless recharging, negating the requirement to plug in.


The trial is being run by Arup and Mitsui as a collaborative project that includes Milton Keynes Borough Council, Cambridge University, Arriva, SSE, Wrightbus, and IPT-Technology.


A similar trial is taking place in London where electric buses are operating along two routes

The trial - using 12m single deck buses built by Chinese manufacturer BYD Auto Ltd - will be used to establish whether the technology can stand up to the rigours of operating in an intense urban environment such as London. 

According to Transport for London (TfL) BYD’s tests demonstrated a potential running cost saving of around 75 per cent compared to a diesel bus. 

Unlike the Milton Keynes buses, the ones on London’s streets will take four to five hours to fully charge overnight and should have a range of 250km. They join around 600 hybrid buses carrying passengers across the capital.

Further details about Autosport International can be found here.

Readers' comments (8)

  • I had hoped, as a resident near MK, that the idiotic wireless recharged bus scheme had been scrapped as given the huge power requirements to keep the buses charged it means anyone who walks on the recharging grid risks being cooked.

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  • Electric buses - why not if they can charge without plugging in. If savings of 75% are real, they could run all night and give people a real service at last.
    Hybrid buses though - around my area (Cheshire) I see lots of eco-buses proudly claiming to be the most efficient public transport available, and inevitably they also display on the front "Sorry not in service" as they run along the M53. I guess efficiency is in the eye of the beholder.

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  • Electric Busses - As most bus routes are now well defined and tend to stick to the larger roads, why not go back to the overhead cables of trolley busses?

    No problems with charging time or inefficiencies of wireless charging. Yes it limits the routes slightly but for larger towns and cities we could combine power distribution network with the supplies for the trolley busses, metering on the vehicle would ensure correct fiscal charging, also an easy network of charging ports could be established for more conventionional rechargeable electrical vehicles using the new network of overheads and avoiding digging up existing surfaces.

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  • Milton Keynes driving can be perplexing at first and the general comments about the roundabouts totally misses the point. Throughout the UK cities are jammed with traffic at regular times in the day and this is entirely due to traffic lights causing queues. Stop start regulation at junctions has been deemed to be the safer method of creating traffic flow. Maybe, but it is so slow and damaging to the environment. In Milton Keynes the traffic flow is continuous with traffic slotting in gaps in oncoming traffic which results in no queues and a virtual free flowing movement. We sometimes have traffic jams of 20 cars or so{!} which quickly clear.
    As to the electric buses I trust they will be sturdy machines as successive Councils have decided to lay sleeping policemen speed bumps which threaten to loosen the teeth at every conceivable point especially in housing estates. If this trial works then great news for the clean air brigade but what happens when the lights go out???

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  • In November 2013 Nick Clegg is reported as stating that the Coalition is committed to investing £400 million between 2010 and 2014 to stimulate the green car market. This is taxpayers’ money. Yes – the same taxpayers who are likely to be at risk from power cuts in the next few years as a consequence of another of the Govt’s green energy enthusiasms.

    The questions the Coalition does not seem to be addressing are: [a] if all British road vehicles switched to electric power, how much more generating capacity would be required, and [b] over what timescale?

    Those charged with running the country (into the ground?) appear to be seriously lacking in informed 360 degree vision. But then, they do seem to proceed with the naivety of ill-informed fifth formers. I wonder if Clegg reads The Engineer?

    As for electric racing cars well, wouldn’t you just know it. The leading light was a Blair/Brown era Govt minister. Having been a close observer of motorsport for over 50 years, if past history of quirky racing series that seemed like a good idea at the time is any guide, ‘electric racing’ will disappear up a cul-de-sac.

    And Milton Keynes electric buses and ‘the world’s most demanding bus route’? Have Baroness Kramer and those she networks with never studied the trolley bus systems that operated in around 50 British towns and cities up until the mid-late Sixties?

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  • @JohnK, The risk being cooked by the charging system is higher when you use a smartphone near your ear or when charging your electric toothbrush!
    Energy requirements are lower when using opportunity charging compared to overnight charging. Local emission will be zero, global emissions will be 50-75% lower compared to conventional buses!

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  • Regarding JohnK's comment: I had assumed that some sort of sensing would be involved so the wireless coupling transmitter unit in the road will not power up unless a bus of the correct type, and in the correct position, is detected? Can someone from one of the involved companiew perhaps write a technical article for the Engineer to explain how this works?

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  • No need, Keith. You'll find your answers here: Further information can be found at this address:

  • @Keith. I will forward your question to the manufacturer.
    It is indeed so that there is a system which identifies the vehicle. There also is communication between vehicle and charging station. The vehicle is leading in the charging process and there are a lot of safety measurments involved.

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