TAKE A LOOK | SA’s first electric bus has started carrying passengers
- The 160-year-old Golden Arrow Bus Services has introduced two new electric busses to its fleet in Cape Town.
- These are the first fully electric buses in South Africa to transport passengers along active routes.
- The buses, which endured a 12-month testing phase, have a 300km range.
- They are recharged at Golden Arrow’s solar-powered depot in Epping, which produces 50kWp energy.
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In a first for South Africa’s public transport system, Golden Arrow has officially launched two fully electric buses, which are carrying passengers as of July.
Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS) has been servicing Cape Town commuters for more than 160 years. Now it is pushing to reduce carbon emissions and use renewable sources of energy, in a project began in 2017 as a collaboration involving Golden Arrow, New Southern Energy, and the City of Cape Town.
The first phase of this electric vehicle (EV) programme involved the installation of a small-scale solar power system at Golden Arrow’s main depot in Epping.
The second and third phases of the project expanded this renewable power system to include almost 2,500 solar panels built on the roof of GABS’ Multimech depot. GABS became a net exporter of electricity by 2020, using less than half of the 50kWp generated and handing the rest over to the City of Cape Town.
Following the success of GABS’ solar power system, a 12-month pilot programme was launched to assess the feasibility of fully electric buses on Cape Town’s roads.
The trial, supplied by China’s BYD with funding from the uYilo eMobility programme, was conducted without human passengers. Instead, one bus was driven empty while the other was loaded with sandbags equivalent in weight to 44 passengers, GABS company engineer Gideon Neethling told Engineering News in April.
The pilot programme showed that loaded electric buses had a range of around 300km before needing to be recharged.
“For the first few months we tested the buses in a range of circumstances without passengers,” explained Neethling.
“The aim was to get to know exactly how these vehicles perform before incorporating them into our operations. Testing these vehicles has been a joy for everyone who is part of the project. Each time we carry out a new test or reach a new milestone, the level of excitement increases further.”
GABS, which transports around 250,000 passengers daily, officially launched the two electric buses on Monday. These busses will operate between Retreat and Cape Town, accommodating commuters who have been severely impacted by the collapse of MetroRail’s passenger train services in the metro.
“My department endorses innovation programmes such as this one given the challenges experienced by our commuters in the absence of the passenger rail system,” said Western Cape Transport and Public Works MEC, Daylin Mitchell.
“The narrative around safety on Golden Arrow busses is very different. After taking a ride in this bus, I am confident passengers will feel safe during their journey.”
(Compiled by Luke Daniel)
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