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Britain Announces Plans For The Next Generation Of Emissions-Free Public Transit

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"Britain Announces Plans For The Next Generation Of Emissions-Free Public Transit"

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One of London's double-decker, hybrid fuel technology buses.

One of London’s double-decker, hybrid fuel technology buses.

CREDIT: AP Photo / Matt Dunham

Trains and buses of the low and even emissions-free variety are on the rise in Britain, evidenced by two new projects underway in the country.

On Thursday, BusinessGreen reported that the city of London is launching a trial project for specially-designed hybrid buses that can wirelessly recharge their batteries while sitting at bus stops. And earlier in August, the outlet also passed along word that Network Rail, the owner and operator for most of Great Britain’s railway infrastructure, is testing out a new model of battery-powered train.

Transport for London (TfL) is overseeing the first project, which will start running four buses along the city’s route 69 between the Canning Town and Walthamstow bus stations — both of which will be outfitted with inductive wireless charging technology. As hybrids, the buses also have a diesel engine they can fall back on whenever their battery gets depleted, so the idea behind the wireless re-charging is to cut down on fossil fuel emissions by allowing the buses to run in pure electric mode as long and as often as possible.

The project is being partially funded by the Zero Emissions Urban Bus System (ZeEUS), a network of eight demonstration projects across six European countries that aims to create better-coordinated, energy-efficient, and all-electric urban bus networks.

TfL didn’t disclose how much they expect the trial to reduce carbon emissions, air pollution, and fuel costs, but they did say they anticipate the buses would make use of their diesel engines “only be a small amount of the time.”

“This trial of extended-range diesel-electric hybrid buses … could be a step closer to getting even cleaner double-deck buses on London’s streets,” Mike Weston, TfL’s director of buses, said in a statement. “We will be closely monitoring the results of the trials, which may help us adopt this new cleaner technology more widely in London.”

Meanwhile, Network Rail’s battery-powered train tests are being carried out with the help of the Independently-Powered Electric Multiple Unit (IPEMU) project, a joint effort between Network Rail, Bombardier, the Department for Transport, and several other operators. The idea here is to create purely electric trains that can run on railways with electrified infrastructure, and railways that don’t.

Diesel-electric trains are already becoming commonplace in Britain, but so far the “electric” part has required that electrified infrastructure along their track in order to run. The battery-powered trains, on the other hand, could draw power in the standard fashion while running on the electrified sections of the rail system, then rely on the battery when traveling on the non-electrified portion.

The end result is a train that both relies less on fossil fuels, and that costs less to run, as it requires less electrification infrastructure. “Over the next five years, Network Rail has a target to reduce the cost of running Britain’s railway by a further 20 per cent,” James Ambrose, Network Rail’s senior engineer leading on the IPEMU project, told the Network Rail Media Centre. “At the same time, we are always looking for ways to make the railway greener too. This project has the potential to contribute significantly towards both those goals.”

So far, they’re relying on lithium iron magnesium phosphate batteries for the initial tests, but the project has had success with hot sodium nickel salt batteries as well, and will be trying out other forms as the tests proceed. The initial trials for the train are already underway at Bombardier’s test track in Derby, and high-speed testing will take place at the Rail Innovation and Development Centre in Nottinghamshire later this year.

In other news, Britian is also taking steps to green up the electrical grid those trains and buses would rely on for their power. In June, the government approved what would be the world’s largest offshore wind farm, a 1,200-megawatt endeavor 26 miles from England’s Suffolk Coast, that’s slated to begin producing energy by 2019. And earlier this week, the investment bank UBS released a report saying the combined effects of rising solar technology and advancements in battery storage could vastly cut down on Europe’s need for centralized electricity production from fossil fuel plants — and that the turn could arrive as early as 2025.

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