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

Miles, John and Potter, Stephen (2014). Developing a viable electric bus service: the Milton Keynes demonstration project. Research in Transportation Economics, 48 pp. 357–363.



Buses can be a serious source of city centre air pollution. Electric buses deliver zero emissions but, because of the time required to recharge, more buses are needed for a given timetable than diesel counterparts, so making mainstream electric bus operations prohibitively expensive.

Early 2014 saw the implementation in Milton Keynes of an electric bus service designed to overcome this problem. An entire bus route has been converted to electric operation with inductive charging at bus layover points. This permits the use of smaller and less expensive battery packs allowing the electric buses to operate continuously all day. This approach significantly reduces the cost of introducing a pure electric bus fleet.

This study not only provides an example of how the electric bus problem can be resolved technically. It also addresses the business structures required to deliver sustainable transport, introducing a different commercial model to that which is traditionally used for bus service delivery. This raises important points for regulatory and innovation policy. There is government support for sustainable transport technologies, but successful delivery in the commercial environment requires new institutional structures and business models as well. The Milton Keynes project has sought to develop such a structure.

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