Milton Keynes to lead the way with wirelessly charged electric buses

Wireless Charging of Electric Vehicles

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London, UK: An innovative approach to charging electric buses is to enable the quieter, cleaner future of public transport in Milton Keynes. Today, eight organisations led by a subsidiary of Mitsui & Co Europe (“Mitsui”) will sign a five-year collaboration agreement committing to the replacement of diesel buses with their all-electric counterparts on one of the main bus routes in the city by summer 2013. Uniquely, the new buses will be able to recharge their batteries wirelessly through the day, which means that for the first time, electric buses will be capable of the equivalent load of a diesel bus.  

The number 7 route in Milton Keynes will replace its diesel buses with eight electric buses that will run seven days a week; removing approximately 500 tonnes of tailpipe CO2 emissions per year as well as 45 tonnes of other noxious tailpipe emissions. The route currently transports over 775,000 passengers a year over a total of 450,000 miles.

The trial is a partnership between:

  • Mitsui subsidiary eFleet Integrated Service Ltd
  • Milton Keynes Council
  • Bus operator Arriva
  • Manufacturer Wrightbus Limited
  • Technology supplier Conductix-Wampfler
  • Western Power Distribution
  • Chargemaster Plc
  • SSE

The collaborators have today signed the agreement that will introduce wirelessly charged electric buses onto Milton Keynes’ roads. The signing ceremony was presided over by the Mayor of Milton Keynes, Councillor Catriona Morris.

The trial was planned and will be managed by Mitsui-Arup joint venture MBK Arup Sustainable Projects (MASP). MASP’s ultimate aim is use the data collected by the Milton Keynes trial to demonstrate the economic viability of low-carbon public transport. This data could be used to kick-start electric bus projects in other towns and cities worldwide.

John Miles, who initiated the trial from Arup, says: “What makes the Milton Keynes project different to other electric bus schemes is the wireless charging system. The Milton Keynes buses will be able to cover a heavily-used urban route because they are able to charge for 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each cycle without interrupting the timetable. This means that for the first time, an electric bus will effectively be able to do everything a diesel bus can do, which is a significant step forwards to a cleaner, quieter, public transport system.”  

Noriaki Sakamoto, Managing Director, Mitsui & Co. Europe Plc, says: “Since the withdrawal of the subsidy for diesel buses, we can see that the cost of diesel bus operations will rise significantly. This, coupled with the anticipated reduction in the cost of batteries and electric drive systems for buses, as well as the introduction of wirelessly charging during the day now means that the electric bus is now a real contender in the future of public transport. Innovation and trials are urgently needed to find a new way forward and Mitsui, as a business enabler, is happy to back this innovative initiative because we can see the long-term benefit for the community as well as for Mitsui.”  

Cllr John Bint, Cabinet Member responsible for transport at Milton Keynes Council, says: “We are delighted to be leading the way with this innovative public transport trial. Milton Keynes led the way with the installation of electric car charge points, and we’re now showing the world how electric buses are a real alternative to the traditional diesel buses.  Passengers on the number 7 route can be proud to be using one of the greenest ways to travel.”

The buses will charge when power transmitted from a primary coil buried in the road is picked up by a secondary coil on the bus. 10 minutes parked over a coil will replenish two thirds of the energy consumed by the bus’s route. The primary coils will be placed at three points on the bus route, and the buses will charge in the time scheduled for driver breaks at the end of the route.

Quotes from parties involved:

Arriva the Shires Ltd:

Paul Adcock, Area MD of Arriva, said: “We are delighted to be part of this exciting project involving some amazing technology and are proud that it is being trialled in Milton Keynes.  We will be responsible for the operation of the buses and ensuring the service is running reliably. This trial will wholly revolutionise Route 7 and we will be interested to track how the drivers, current customers and potential customers will respond to the quieter, smoother electric buses.”


Dr Lorraine Rock, Global Supply Chain Director, said: “This is the first time that such a heavy-duty route has been tested with electric buses and it is exciting to be part of this path-finding initiative. As the bus manufacturer, we will be on hand to support bus use – providing warranty, maintenance and technical support services to Arriva as needed.”


Mathias Wechlin, Product Manager, Conductix-Wampfler, said: “We will provide, and maintain the charging equipment for the IPT® system – and importantly, collect data relating to the power drawn over typical daily, weekly and monthly cycles. The trial provides a fantastic possibility to prove that opportunity charging will enable the competitive operation of electric buses.” Note: IPT® stands for Inductive Power Transfer

Chargemaster Plc:

David Martell, Chief Executive of Chargemaster Plc, said: “As a local company we are delighted to be a partner in this exciting project. Chargemaster, one of the largest suppliers of charging equipment in Europe, is already the primary supplier of electric vehicle charging equipment for Milton Keynes Council and we are proud to support this initiative which will put Milton Keynes at the forefront of electric bus operating technology and provide lower emissions and cleaner air for Milton Keynes.”