Solar-powered buses headed to Brighton in the UK

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Known as one of the most forward-thinking cities in the U.K., Brighton and Hove will soon be welcoming a small fleet of solar-powered buses. The project is being billed as a pilot for other cities in the U.K., as The Big Lemon says zero emissions bus services in every U.K. city by 2030 is the goal.

The Big Lemon coach company is completing the Solar Bus project in partnership with Brighton Energy Coop, and has already raised £250,000 (USD 310,000) in funding. A further £25,000 may be on its way to the project from the M&S Community Energy Fund, as it has been shortlisted along with some other projects to receive the extra cash.

Instead of installing the solar system on the buses themselves, The Big Lemon is planning on putting a 30 kWh solar array on the roof of the company’s bus depot, alongside an energy storage unit. This will enable the buses to charge, estimated to take about 4 hours, once they are parked in the depot overnight.

Cost-effective and sustainable

The Big Lemon is no stranger to innovative energy generation, as the company used to run all of its vehicles on waste cooking oil from local restaurants, recycled into biodiesel. Now it has decided to continue to be resourceful, by converting diesel buses to run on electricity, rather than buying new electric buses. The buses have been purchased by the company for £20,000 each, and will cost a further £140,000 to convert.

“It’s great to be working with The Big Lemon on the innovative Solar Bus project,” said Brighton Energy Coop Chair Will Cottrell. “Brighton Energy Coop has many exciting projects, but never before have we covered the roof of a bus depot in solar panels to power the buses that live there. This is the first project of its kind in the U.K. – a very exciting time for us and a project that puts Brighton & Hove at the forefront of renewable energy and transport in the U.K.”

While the U.K. solar industry may be wavering, the county’s transport system is taking its own steps to incorporate clean solar energy into its business activities. Earlier in the year, 100% solar-powered Double Decker buses arrived in London.

A fleet of five buses were developed by China’s BYD company for Transport for London and Metroline, as the city aims to get to zero emissions by 2050. Now, a further fleet of ten will be hitting the roads of Brighton and Hove, as bus services across the country explore ways to reduce their emissions.