Residents of a northwestern suburb of London will be riding electric buses about town for the next few years—vehicles that will use the same technology used in electronic toothbrushes to recharge wirelessly. As the FT reports, the experiment in Milton Keynes is expected to help prove the viability—or folly—of electric buses as a form of public transportation:
Eight vehicles carried passengers regularly along a 15-mile route, a demanding task for electric buses because of the duration and higher speed required. Their performance will be assessed over five years with the aim of using the data to demonstrate that electric buses make not just environmental but also economic sense.
From a green perspective, this could be great news. While the electricity the buses run on will still have to come from somewhere (and likely incur associated emissions), generating electricity at a power plant is a far more efficient process than propelling a car with an internal combustion engine.But hurdles remain for electric vehicles. Maybe the biggest has to do with how long they can keep a charge, and therefore how extensive their range is. Companies like Tesla are working on building out recharging stations in the US, but the appeal of constantly having to stop and plug in (even Elon Musk’s EVs have ranges substantially smaller than their gas-guzzling counterparts) is understandably low. Interestingly, this limitation makes electric buses a potentially fruitful target for EV manufacturers. City buses have short, defined routes—in Milton Keynes the route is just 15 miles long—and the consistency of travel makes it easier to plan for recharging. The fact that the fleet is to be recharged wirelessly makes it seem like this could actually work. We’ll be watching.