First York begins UK passenger trials with upgraded electric bus featuring Equipmake zero emissions powertrain 

A familiar bus is back on the streets of York this week as operator First York begins a passenger-carrying trial service following a complete upgrade of the vehicle’s electric power system. The Optare Versa, an early-generation electric bus, is the first to be converted in a contract awarded to Equipmake, a leading electrification specialist based in Norfolk.

The bus now features a pioneering electric drivetrain and is expected to have a range of 150 miles (241km) in all UK weather conditions. This is thanks to a larger battery and Equipmake’s patented HVAC system, extending the life of existing zero-emissions public transport for the people of York.

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Tom Bridge, First Bus North & West Yorkshire operations director, said: “It’s great to see the bus back in service and we’re confident customers will enjoy the experience of an ultra-smooth, quiet ride and the benefit of zero-emission travel. 

“This retrofit technology is another important step in our transition to achieving a fully electric fleet in York, continuing to help improve air quality in the city and supporting the goal of First Bus nationally to have a zero-emission fleet by 2035.”

The Optare Versa trial will last for four weeks, operating on the 68 service to the University of York this week and the Burnholme-Bishopthorpe 11 service from 20 March. This will enable engineering teams at First York and Equipmake to evaluate its performance and make any final adjustments. A total of 12 converted vehicles will be delivered over the coming months.

Back in 2022, Equipmake showcased its latest all-electric bus technology with the new zero-emission version of the London-used New Routemaster double-decker bus. If this trial in York, and those taking place in London go well, hopefully, more bus companies and services will look into converting to Equipmake’s efficient electric powertrains as a cost-effective way of converting to 100 per cent electric powertrains.

Equipmake repowers are tailored to specific requirements provided by the operator, with service routes simulated to ensure the optimum battery power level is selected to secure driving ranges of 150 to 250 miles (241 to 402km). This range is more than sufficient for a complete duty cycle, allowing buses to be recharged faster, overnight and operate for longer during the day.

Ian Foley, Equipmake CEO, said:“We are delighted to have completed the conversion of this Optare Versa for First York, which features our state-of-the-art electric repower system. 

“Knowledge gained from in-service trials will be used to inform the implementation of our pioneering technology in 12 of the buses in the fleet, fantastic news for passengers and the people of York, making a significant contribution to improving local air quality.”

Ian Osborne
Ian Osborne
Editor-in-Chief at ElectricDrives

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