London’s fleet of brand new hybrid buses, specially commissioned to be clean and green, may just be running on diesel thanks to persistent problems with the hybrid battery. Many of the buses have simply had their batteries removed, making the buses difficult to drive, and, of course, not in any way ‘green’.
When first rolled out in 2011, the buses were billed as delivering “a cleaner, greener and more pleasant city.”
Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who championed the new design, remarked “It’s not just a pretty face. The green innards of this red bus mean that it is twice as fuel efficient as a diesel bus and the most environment-friendly of its kind.”
Transport for London’s surface transport director Leon Daniels added: “This vehicle really has set a new standard. It utilises the latest cutting edge engine technology to deliver phenomenal fuel economy and emission performance.”
But just four years on, the BBC has reported on rumours that “at the back of a bus depot, there is a large pile of power batteries that no longer work.”
Mr Daniels has admitted that 80 of the new Routemasters are running on diesel only, and in all 200 will have the batteries replaced under warranty. Drivers have reported that the buses, designed to be driven with the battery in place, are slower and have poorer acceleration as a result of having the battery removed.
Christian Wolmar, a transport journalist who is seeking the nomination to be Labour’s candidate in the London Mayoral elections has spoken to a number of drivers, and told the BBC: “What they have told me is profoundly shocking. These buses do not work properly, the electric motor does not work.
“They stall quite a lot and there’s a danger of them rolling back. Sometimes they go completely out of phase and all the red lights come on and the drivers find it very difficult to control them at times.
“The drivers say almost nine out of 10 do not have the electric motors working. This bus is a ridiculous throw back. It has been a total waste of money.”
The buses each cost £354,000, roughly £50,000 more than an off-the-peg hybrid and more than £100,000 more than the old bendy buses that the new Routemasters were brought in to replace.
Mr Johnson has previously claimed that the buses are good value for money, however, as they save on fuel thanks to their hybrid technology. In 2013 he commented: “If the new bus fulfills the promise shown in tests, we will be able to save so much on fuel it will actually come out cheaper than our current hybrid buses.”
Mr Daniels has commented: “An improved battery design was introduced on new deliveries and any older ones which fail are repaired or replaced. This has all been done by the manufacturers within the warranty period, at no cost to TfL, or the fare or tax payer.”