Electragirl’s British Excursion: A Little (Electric) Magic in York

Saturday 19th August 2014

York, in North Yorkshire, UK

York in North Yorkshire

This week’s mission took us to the lovely City of York in North Yorkshire where we met with Derek McCreadie from the City Of York to chat about the cities Electric Car Charging network and experience, first hand, their new Electric Bus Program.

A quick background on York. A city founded by the Romans in 71 AD, York is a walled city with its 50 acre heart surrounded by a fortress wall built shortly afterwards. In 1080, construction began on what is now the famous York Minster. In recent times, the population has grown to nearly 200,000 and York has become a very busy place.

On an average day, the city is bustling with thousands of cars, buses and lorries all making their way through the narrow streets, lined with 16th -18th century stone buildings. The impact of that traffic is all too apparent. In the UK, diesel is the king of fuels and poor regulations mean that the air literally tastes of diesel fumes and the buildings are coated with diesel and other soot. Oh my poor lungs!

Let me say that, I don’t do public transport. Actually, I don’t do any transport particularly well but, in the name of science I decided to give the Park-&-Ride electric bus scheme a go… But, I forgot my sick bag.

Three head DC Fast Charger at the York Park and RideWe arrived at the Park-&-Ride on the outskirts of the City of York. Normally, the extra few miles into the city would be a fairly painless journey ending in a lot of circling to find the best parking followed by an anxious hour or two wondering if either a: We’d put enough money on the pay-&-display ticket (3hrs = £6.20, $10.00) or b: We’d even parked in a legal spot! Today, at the Park-&-Ride we paid £5.40, $8.64 for two return tickets into town and unlimited parking. We only had to wait about 5 minutes for the next bus, they run every 10 minutes. The bus pulled in, stopped, and as I walked forward to get on I looked behind to make sure my side kick was following. But alas no, he was some distance away eagerly snapping photos of the bus behind at the charging station. I gave him ‘that look’, which sent him sprinting towards the bus so as not to miss it! Well, I didn’t feel like waiting another 10 minutes! I suppose I could have left him but I had the money!!!

Bus plugged in at the York Park and RideOne thing that was very different to what I expected was the way the buses charged. I expected huge fat cables or overhead rails but no, the buses are charged from a CHAdeMO DC fast charger with what Derek described as “Special software that ensures that the buses are charging at the full rate all of the time.” The charger also featured CCS and 3-phase too which, by arrangement is available to the public after hours!

So, as the bus set off I was really not looking forward to the ride into town – buses and I are not good friends. The initial set off was the tell tale sign that the bus was electric, it was quiet and smooth. It’s also so nice to not have that horrible smelly, cronkyness (probably not a word but it fits the need here). Unfortunately, there was no mistaking that it was still a bus – And unfortunately I had forgotten my sick bag! I just don’t travel well.

On the electric bus at the York Park and RideAfter missing our stop – apparently you have to press the red stop button before your stop to signal to the driver that you would like to disembark – whoops! We ended up almost doing the full circle… Really wish I’d bought that sick bag now!

After finally getting off the bus, we met Derek at one of the City’s parking lots where we found a few level two and another new DC fast charger with CCS, 3-phase and CHAdeMO.

Derek McCreadie is a softly spoken, unimposing man charged with the task of making good on York City Councils goal of cleaning up the air in York City. I think he’s quite a giant of a man who history will remember as the man that preserved York for generations to come.

Derek McCreadie at a DC Faster charger in YorkDriven by the City of York Environmental Protection Unit, Derek McCreadie, as Low Emissions Officer has the job of persuading the City’s departments to rethink how they do things. “I’m not sure how it works but, I guess with a little Magic Dust, each department starts to make changes.” His first task two years ago was to study the sources of pollution in the city where he quickly identified the top culprit – Buses. Moreover, it was apparent that certain buses were far more active than others. Derek set about re-making the Park-&-Ride scheme with pure electric propulsion.

Bus charging at the York Park and Ride Close

Electric Bus Charging

We asked Derek about the buses, how they’d come about. “I worked with the platform company Optare and with other cities that have done the same, like Milton Keynes where they’ve used wireless charging. But, we decided that simple, proven and cost effective was best, hence the CHAdeMO charger. Our busses enjoy 95% availability and each bus saves about £20,000 per year in fuel alone.” – that’s over $30,000.

Well, we know there’s that one important question that we had to ask… So, how far can it go? “Well, that depends an awful lot on the drivers. There’s a big difference between the range that different drivers get but, on its 107kWhr battery, it gets about 100 miles at best but, more like 60+ in the hands of the average driver on a typical day. It covers almost a full days work on a single change.” I cringed at the next bit, “So, it does about 0.6 miles/kWhr.” – that’s 4.8 less than I get in my i3!

So, what next? “York should have approx 11% of bus movements running fully electric by Autumn and 80% of bus movements is achievable by 2018 which will have substantial air quality benefits.”

Charging spots in YorkWe also talked about Yorks’ focus on charging. In association with Kevin Sharpe’s company, Zero Carbon World http://zerocarbonworld.org/meet-the-team/kevin-sharpe York has deployed an extrodinary number of Level 1 charging stations at hotels in the City – Level 1 in the UK is actually twice the power of Level 1 in the US – and four DC fast chargers and, eleven Level 2 around the city. All of which are charged for by the power consumed, at £0.15/kWhr,  $0.24/kWhr with stiff penalties for those that plug-in and leave their cars too long as that price also includes parking. The City allows 1hr for DC, 12hrs for Level 2 but has yet not needed to give out a single ticket for that or even for ICEing EV charging spots. http://www.itravelyork.info/driving/electric-vehicles/electric-vehicle-recharging-network

What I find most impressive is that all of this change has happened in less than two years. Perhaps being an early adopter is not the most efficient path?

Our ride back to the park-&-ride station was quick and uneventful. But, the big question is, would I use it again? Yes, I would as it makes life easier but I’d definitely remember my sick bag next time!

Do you want to see this kind of scheme in your town?


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