Company planning for an electric bus future

FIRST Bus has submitted a planning application for electrification works at Wells Bus Depot including a new power supply to the site and the installation of vehicle chargers.

The company hopes to gain permission for the scheme from Somerset Council in readiness for the day when it can operate electric buses in Wells.

First Bus already has nearly 250 vehicles on the road that are zero emission including 22 hydrogen electric buses in Aberdeen, and electric buses in Glasgow, York, Leeds and Leicester. By March 2024, it will have more than 600 zero emission buses on the road including three fully electric bus fleet depots in Leicester, Norwich and York.

A First Bus spokesperson said: “As part of our ongoing mission to decarbonise our UK operations, we are progressing planning applications to install electrical infrastructure at more of our sites to future-proof our business for the switch to a zero-emission fleet in the not too distant future.

“At this time there are no immediate plans to roll out electric buses in Wells, but by installing the necessary infrastructure it means it will be a seamless transition when we reach that point.”

The proposal for Wells Bus Depot, on Priory Road, includes a new point of connection to the local power network, and it would see chargers of various sizes situated around the site to provide power connections to the vehicles.

According to the planning documents, the existing bus washing and fuelling facilities would be unaltered as part of these works. The documents also state: “The proposed electric bus parking plan shows 18 buses. These works will be carried out over a number of years depending on demand so there will be a mixture of electric and diesel buses on site for the foreseeable future so the overall number of buses on the site is not envisaged to decrease.”

During a presentation to Wells City Council in January, First West of England Managing Director Doug Claringbold talked about the company’s zero carbon aspirations, and its commitment to Wells.

The plans for the city’s bus depot have been welcomed by Steve Wilson, who runs The Square soft play centre next to the depot. He said: “I really hope this comes to fruition, as I try to be as green as possible myself – including driving an EV – but we will only have a chance of achieving net zero if all businesses get on board, so it’s great to see a bus company making the investment. And aside from that, EV buses should offer a far more comfortable journey for both drivers and passengers.”

First Bus says it can rapid charge buses now in 2-4 hours depending on the model, and that the range varies from 180-230 miles – a full day’s work on most routes – off a single charge, so no charging is required during operation.