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UK’s largest EV charging hub set for Glasgow bus depot

Jordan O'Brien

Jordan O'Brien

Contributing Editor
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First Bus EV charging

First Bus UK is investing heavily in an electrified fleet of buses in Scotland, with the company set to install over 150 charging points at its Glasgow Caledonia bus depot. 

Most charging hubs in the UK currently see charger installations in the low double digits, but First Bus will need to provide enough chargers for up to 300 electric buses. That’s why the company has turned to Heliox to provide over 150 charging points at the depot, which will make it the UK’s largest EV charging hub. 

Chargers will be installed over two phases, with phase one set to be complete by September this year. That will see 11 dual DC rapid charging units installed, allowing for the introduction of 22 electric buses to Glasgow’s streets ahead of COP26. 

Phase two of the project is scheduled to start later this summer and will see a further 69 dual-headed DC charging units installed over a six-month period, increasing the number of chargers on the site to 162. The major transformation has been made possible in part due to First Bus being awarded a further £24.3m in a successful bid in the second round of the Scottish Ultra Low Bus Scheme (SULEB).

First Bus UK has pledged to only invest in low and zero-emission vehicles from December 2022, with a 100% zero-emission fleet by 2035. That means this project in Glasgow will likely be replicated across the country as the company rolls out more electric buses. 

Janette Bell, Managing Director for First Bus UK, commented, “First Bus is at the forefront of the green transport revolution, and we continue to fast-track our efforts to surpass passenger expectations. We are proud to be announcing the UK’s largest EV charging infrastructure as part of our transition to a zero-emission fleet.

“We are making excellent progress on our commitments to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions in our communities.  By improving the air quality in the areas we operate within, we are supporting the health of our customers, and by cutting carbon emissions we are putting our weight behind Scotland’s ambitious plans for tackling the global threat of climate change.

“Launching this project at Caledonia depot, the largest of its kind, is a very exciting next step and reinforces that both First Bus and our stakeholders are making continued investment in the future of bus.”

How First Bus UK is progressing towards a zero-emission fleet

First Bus’s long-term objective is to ensure that the Glasgow Caledonia depot is fully prepared for the transition to net zero operations. This includes further opportunities for on-site renewable energy, storage technologies and renewable energy utility supply.

Andrew Jarvis, Portfolio Managing Director responsible for First’s operating companies in the devolved nations, including First Scotland said, “This is an ambitious and exciting plan that will have positive implications for the entire city of Glasgow. We’re thrilled that Transport Scotland understood our vision from the very beginning and that we are starting work on this large-scale project that will help us move closer towards a zero-emission fleet.

“Over the coming months we will take delivery of 22 ADL/BYD EV buses from Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) in Falkirk, with a further 126 buses delivered and in service over 2021 and 2022, with the order complete by spring 2023.”

Rapid bus charging technology will be the first of its kind in the UK

First Bus’s power solutions partner for this project, Dutch company Heliox, is a global leader in fast charging systems for public transport, trucks and heavy duty vehicles and equipment. Heliox has previously worked on leading EV transformation projects at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, Wiesbaden’s Gartenfeldstraβe depot in Germany, and the biggest electric bus charging network in Oslo, Norway. The Caledonia project will be their first project in the UK, and it is the largest project they have undertaken in terms of the amount of charging points installed.

First Bus is adopting Heliox’s 150 kW modular rapid charging solution. The charger is ultra-flexible and can charge any type of electric vehicle, extending usage beyond the immediate bus fleet.

Heliox’s smart bus charging solutions for First Bus will be controlled via smart charging software which will ensure that power demand is utilised at the most efficient times (so as not to overwhelm local power infrastructure) and each vehicle will be fully charged with the interior pre-heated for drivers at the start of each shift.

Michael Colijn, Chief Executive Officer at Heliox Group, concluded, “We are marking a big step in zero-emission public transport with the development of the First Bus Caledonia depot. As one of the largest bus operators in the UK, First Bus have chosen Heliox’s market leading rapid, scalable and modular charging system which can handle high demanding bus routes and easily grow with fleets fast charging needs by ensuring power demand is utilised at the most efficient time.

“With Heliox’s experienced team, we are confident working with the most ambitious fleet operators on their path to electrification, streamlining their trajectory to zero-emissions.”

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