Birmingham investigates solar-powered electric buses

Birmingham City Council has unveiled its vision for the future of transport in the city which includes proposals to electrify the entire city’s transit network.

The Birmingham Mobility Action Plan (BMAP) has been designed to help realise the city’s ambition to reduce its carbon output by 60% by 2027. Currently, Birmingham residents make 2.8 million journeys a day with half of them being made in cars -- causing serious road congestion as well as pollution.  

BMAP proposes to electrify the whole transit network in order to make the transport network emission free at the point of delivery. Spearheading the move will be a new fleet of battery-powered electric buses that use induction technology. The use of induction technology will address the main challenge facing electric buses at the moment, in that the batteries have to be regularly recharged.

One of the concepts being considered is a solar-powered bus stop that would not only protect passengers from weather but also help top-up the buses’ batteries through inductive charging.

Sir Albert Bore, the Leader of Birmingham City Council, commented:  “This is a transport plan, not for tomorrow but for over the next 25 years. We need an integrated transport system in Birmingham which we all need to agree on. This is why we are putting out this consultation document. Once this plan is agreed across the businesses and residents of Birmingham then we need to put in place funding programmes that will allow us to implement the plan over the coming years.

“This is precisely what countries such as France and Germany have done over the last 20 years, and which is why their transport infrastructure is so much better than ours. We need to do better in Birmingham and this plan will allow us to deliver a transport system comparable to other cities in Europe.”

Campaigns support worker for Birmingham Friends of the Earth, Julien Pritchard, said: "The draft BMAP offers an ambitious holistic and sustainable vision for our transport system. It is good to see the city have a sense of purpose in its transport policy for the next 20+ years.

“As a group that is campaigning on tackling air pollution through greater use of walking and cycling, we are also pleased to see the Action Plan acknowledging the need to tackle air quality and recognising that traffic is its major cause. The explicit desire to encourage a modal shift away from cars towards walking and cycling as well as public transport is also encouraging.”

Birmingham is not the first UK city to explore the electrification of buses. Milton Keynes has signed a five-year agreement to run a trial bus route that includes installing wireless charging technology along the route. The trial is expected to negate the emission of around 500 tonnes of CO2 as well as 45 tonnes of other noxious emissions.