Multi-vehicle charging hubs are the future for commercial transport 

Plans being developed to open up electric bus charging hubs to lorries and vans so that any business can charge its electric vehicles (EVs) would help accelerate the UK’s transition to low carbon transport, according to energy industry leader SSE and SWARCO Smart Charging.

The idea was highlighted today (25 Oct) during a visit to Sharston bus depot in Greater Manchester, which features 32 electric vehicle charging stations, making it the first sizeable EV bus charging depot in England outside London.

SSE Energy Solutions and SWARCO Smart Charging are currently looking at a number of opportunities around the UK to equip bus depots with EV charging facilities which could then be made available for use by local business fleets.

Two-thirds of electric cars bought in the UK are purchased by businesses, rather than private buyers, according to industry figures. Last year more than 108,000 new electric cars were registered.

The Sharston site is used by Stagecoach, the UK’s biggest bus and coach operator, and is the home to the region’s first double-decker electric bus fleet which is estimated to save over 2200 tonnes of carbon a year. Stagecoach operates a fleet of clean, green buses across Greater Manchester.

SSE highlighted the shared charging idea as part of a tour of the UK’s green energy and sustainable transport projects in the run up to the Cop26 climate summit on 1 November. 

A COP26-branded electric bus drew up at the Sharston charging points alongside other commercial vehicles including a refuse collection vehicle and a car. The concept is that while buses are busy working the streets during the day, sites could be made available during daytime hours for other businesses who wish to charge their electric vehicles.

It comes as SSE Energy Solutions works with Stagecoach in England to support their business cases for ZEBRA (Zero Emission Bus Regional Area) funding from the UK government. 

Meanwhile in Scotland, SSE Energy Solutions has been working with Stagecoach to use SULEBS (Scottish Ultra Low Emission Bus Scheme) funding from the Scottish government. This is enabling SSE to install charging stations at Aberdeen and Perth bus depots, using chargers from SWARCO Smart Charging. Work starts on site at Perth this month (October) to install five chargers serving ten bus bays, and at Aberdeen next month (November) to install 11 chargers serving 22 buses, along with a single charger for ‘opportunity charging’ at the local bus station.

Kevin Welstead, EV Sector Director for SSE Energy Solutions, says: “SSE Energy Solutions are working with Stagecoach and SWARCO on a number of sites across the UK, utilising our range of services to provide the optimal electrical infrastructure for each depot. We look forward to continuing to develop these relationships by building on our existing successes, and by working together for a green future for all modes of transport. By focussing on interoperability of chargers for electric vehicles across the network and efficient use of assets we can work together to benefit more electric vehicle users and support the nationwide transition to zero emission vehicles.”

Justin Meyer, Managing Director at SWARCO Smart Charging, comments: “SWARCO is delighted to be working with SSE and others to help build a greener future for the UK transport needs. The idea of shared charging sites is being actively explored at a number of locations, to make best use of the charging assets we supply. This will undoubtedly help in the journey to net zero.”

Buses can be fully charged at sites such as Sharston in just a few hours. The Sharston depot also has a large solar array on the roof, generating renewable energy for the site to complement its grid connection.

SSE is a major partner at COP26; and alongside the Go-Ahead group, Alexander Dennis, BYD and SWARCO Smart Charging is using an EV bus tour to showcase examples of the national effort already underway to decarbonise energy and transport. 

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