Developing a viable electric bus service: the Milton Keynes demonstration project

Miles, John and Potter, Stephen (2013). Developing a viable electric bus service: the Milton Keynes demonstration project. In: Thredbo 13: International Conference on Competition and Ownership in Land Passenger Transport, 15-19 Sep 2013, Oxford, UK.


Diesel, and even hybrid, buses can be a serious source of city centre air pollution. Electric buses deliver zero emissions, but because of the need to recharge, in operation they require about double the number of vehicles, so making mainstream electric bus operations prohibitively expensive.

This autumn will see the implementation in Milton Keynes of an electric bus service designed to overcome this problem. An entire bus route will be converted to electric operation with inductive charging at bus layover points. This will permit the use of smaller and less expensive battery pack and for the electric buses to operate continuously all day. Consequently this design does not require the purchase of a significantly larger fleet.

This study not only provides an example of how technically resolve the electric bus problem, but raises strategic issues about the organisational structures to deliver sustainable transport, using a different business concept to that for conventional bus developments. This raises important points for regulatory and innovation policy. There is government support for sustainable transport technologies, but these innovations require new institutional structures and business models as well. The Milton Keynes project has sought to develop such a structure.

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