South Africa’s First Electric Solar-Powered Buses Are Running in Cape Town

Image sourced from CapeTalk.

Golden Arrow, a major public transport bus service operator for Cape Town, South Africa, has officially launched two fully electric buses to ferry passengers as of July.

The Golden Arrow Bus Service (GABS) has been pushing to reduce the carbon emissions from its fleet of buses and begin using more renewable sources of energy. The bus service, which has been servicing Cape Town commuters for more than 160 years, began its renewable energy project in 2016, as a collaboration involving Golden Arrow, New Southern Energy, and the City of Cape Town.

The company, which transports around 250,000 passengers daily, officially launched the two electric buses on Monday. These buses are expected to operate between Retreat and Cape Town, accommodating commuters who have been severely impacted by the collapse of MetroRail’s passenger train services in the metro.

The first phase of this electric vehicle programme involved the installation of a small-scale solar power system at Golden Arrow’s main depot in Epping. The second and third phases of the project expanded this small renewable power system to include 2,500 solar panels built on the roof of GABS’ Multimech depot.

Following the initial success of GABS’ solar power system, a 12-month pilot programme was launched to assess the feasibility of buses running on renewable solar power in the roads of Cape Town.

Business Insider reports that the pilot programme showed that fully-loaded electric buses had a range of around 300km before needing to be recharged. The pilot trial was an extensive one. It was supplied by China’s BYD with funding from uYilo eMobility programme and was conducted without human passengers.

Two buses were tested – one was completely empty, the other was filled with sandbags equivalent to the weight of 44 passengers.

“For the first few months we tested the buses in a range of circumstances without passengers,” explained Gideon Neethling, an engineer at GABS.

“The aim was to get to know exactly how these vehicles perform before incorporating them into our operations. Testing these vehicles has been a joy for everyone who is part of the project. Each time we carry out a new test or reach a new milestone, the level of excitement increases further.”

By Luis Monzon
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