We’ve got the power: First starts work in Glasgow to transform flagship Caledonia Depot into UK’s largest EV charging station

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Work has begun on an ambitious new project by First Bus that will transform its Glasgow Caledonia bus depot into the UK’s largest Electric Vehicle (EV) charging hub.

Key points:

  • Two-phase project funded in part by Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus (SULEB) will see over 150 EV charging units installed at depot
  • Phase One of the development will support the arrival of 22 new electric buses to the city ahead of COP26, the United Nations Climate Change conference
  • Dutch-based smart charging supplier, Heliox is installing rapid charging solutions that are controlled via smart charging software

The plans are another major step forward in the leading transport operator’s sustainable travel agenda and follows their pledge to only invest in low and zero-emission vehicles from December 2022, with a 100% zero-emission fleet by 2035.

With phased completion scheduled across the next 18 months, the redeveloped Caledonia depot, already the UK’s largest bus depot, will have space to charge up to 300 EV buses on site. The first phase of the project, now underway, will see 11 dual DC rapid charging units installed.

Phase One of the depot transformation is expected to be complete by September this year, allowing for the introduction of a further 22 electric buses to Glasgow’s streets ahead of COP26, the United Nations Climate Change conference.

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 6-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). 

Janette Bell, MD, First Bus UK: “Launching this project reinforces that First Bus and our stakeholders are making continued investment in the future of bus”

Janette Bell, Managing Director for First Bus UK said: “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.”

Progressing toward a zero-emission fleet

First Bus’s long-term objective is to ensure that the site 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 (pictured, top) 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.”

First Glasgow’s Caledonia depot is already the UK’s largest bus depot, but will also soon be the largest EV Charging station as well

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 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 its 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 market leading 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.

Andrew Jarvis (left) welcomes Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson MSP, to First’s Caledonia Depot to see the project breaking ground

Michael Colijn, Chief Executive Officer at Heliox Group said: “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.”

Funding

  • Funding for the project has been made possible by the Scottish Government, with contributions secured via the first two rounds of the Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme, which awarded First Bus Glasgow £28.2m.
  • First Bus have committed a further £35.6m to fast-track the depot’s transition to electric and signal its dedication to delivering a trailblazing bus offer in the city.

Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ)

  • The SULEB and additional First Bus investment in electric buses means that First Glasgow is well on the way to going beyond the city council’s Low Emission Zone standard by the end of 2022 (Glasgow is Scotland’s first low emission zone).
    • Heavy duty vehicles, such as buses, coaches and HGVs as expected to meet current Euro VI standards which include a reduction in Particulate Matter to 0.01g/kWh and Nitric oxides to 0.4g/kWh.
    • First Glasgow expect to achieve 90% compliance across their fleet in the next 18 months due to the introduction of 125 Euro 6 buses that adhere to the Low Emission Zone regulations alongside the investment in EV buses. This is predicted to be ahead of the council’s expectation of 80% compliance by Dec 2022.
  • The first fleet of 22 SULEB funded buses are scheduled to be in service from September this year, ahead of COP26. When the second fleet, an additional 126 EV buses, is in operation this figure will increase to 148 (excluding the 2 EV single-decks already in service)
  • The fleet operating from the Caledonia depot will be 45% electric once all 150 electric buses are in operation by March 2023.

First Bus’s sustainability commitments

  • First Bus is part of FirstGroup, the first UK bus and rail operator to formally commit to setting an ambitious Science-Based Target to achieve net zero emissions.
  • First Bus’s individual commitment to operate a 100% zero-emission fleet by 2035 has far-reaching positive implications for the towns and cities they serve, not only in terms of improving local air quality and reducing noise, but also by significantly reducing the carbon emissions produced to power their fleet.
  • Work to deliver on that 2035 timescale has already begun. First Bus are training the teams who are key to its success and making significant investments in the future, including those highlighted at the Caledonia depot.

About First Bus

First Bus is one of the UK’s largest bus operators – and the partner of choice for innovative and sustainable transport. Leading the transition to a low-carbon future, First Bus has committed to operating a zero-emission bus fleet by 2035 and to not purchasing any new diesel buses after December 2022.

Working proactively with local authority partners, First Bus is proud to be making a positive impact on air quality, tackling congestion and improving customer experience.

Making journeys easier for customers, First Bus was the first national bus operator to accept contactless card payments across all services and the First Bus app is voted ‘best in class’ amongst UK bus operators. First Bus is a division of FirstGroup.

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