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Electric buses to assist in debunking myths around EVs

New technology: a driver in an electric bus in China. The first of 30 electric buses from China are expected to arrive in Bermuda this year (Photograph by Linuxthink/Wikipedia)

Electrification of Bermuda’s bus fleet has been described as a way to assist and “de-risk” the introduction of electric vehicles on the island.

The first of 30 electric buses are expected to arrive on the island this year. The consignment of buses is worth $4.4 million and is coming from China.

Roger Todd, director of the Bermuda Government’s Department of Public Transportation, spoke about electric vehicles (EVs) during a discussion at the Island Finance Forum last week.

He explained how and why Bermuda had embraced electric vehicle technology for its bus fleet, and the continuing drive towards having more EVs in the broader Government vehicle fleet.

There is a partnership with Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit American sustainability group, which started with a memorandum of understanding in 2018 between the Government and Rocky Mountain to pursue renewable energy for the island, and the electrification and decarbonisation of the public bus fleet.

Bermuda for many years had bought diesel buses and maintained a standardised fleet. Mr Todd said: “But there is the risk that you get stuck in a routine and a rut, and you lose track of what the market is doing and where it is.”

It was decided to look for low-emission buses that were suitable for Bermuda.

“We were looking at a narrow bus, but also things such as accessibility. We were able to test the market across the globe,” he said.

“We had always operated on a bespoke bus design, but we found that there were some buses in the market that were production vehicles that were electric and provided for some of our objectives.

“By being a production vehicle it meant they were available at significantly lower cost and shorter lead time.”

The Government has approved a contract for an initial batch of electric buses, which are now being secured.

The selection of a vendor to supply the electric vehicle charging infrastructure for the buses is also in the final stages.

Mr Todd said small islands are favourable locations for electric vehicles as they do not tend to present “range anxiety” – that is the fear that a vehicle will run out of power before it can be recharged.

“Range anxiety does not play into Bermuda. Once you have driven an electric vehicle for two weeks in Bermuda and realised that you only have to charge it once, then range anxiety quickly becomes a non-issue,” he said.

Some island residents own all-electric vehicles, and there are fleets of small rental electric vehicles that are primarily aimed at visitors and tourists.

In addition, five years ago Belco started to convert its fleet of vehicles to hybrid and all-electric models. The company has previously indicated it plans to convert its entire fleet to electric vehicles by 2025.

Mr Todd said charging infrastructure on the residential side was fairly straightforward. He said: “It is very easy to accommodate charging at home, and on the fleet operation side home is the depot. Our initial efforts are to focus on depot charging and to integrate or modify our bus schedules such so that it accommodates depot charging, as opposed to opportunity charging.”

Mr Todd said Rocky Mountain Institute was still in partnership with Bermuda and has moved its efforts to the Government’s broader fleet. He said this was important in terms of exposure and de-risking vehicle electrification.

He said: “So, for someone who may support electrification but individually they don't want to take on the early adoption risk, by [seeing] the Government taking that on, and other large fleet operator, such as the utilities, converting their fleet to electric where possible, that really helps to test the technology, prove the technology, and debunk some of the myths associated with electrification.”

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Published April 23, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated April 22, 2021 at 2:56 pm)

Electric buses to assist in debunking myths around EVs

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