Go-Ahead to conduct six-month trial of buses with solar panels

SINGAPORE: Your bus trip in Singapore could soon be partially sun-powered.

The bus operator Go-Ahead Singapore has installed ultra-thin solar modules on the roofs of two of its buses, which are operated with Service 15. This is the first time that such solar modules have been installed here in buses.

The 1.6 mm thick panels convert solar energy into electricity to charge the buses’ batteries.

“This reduces the load on the vehicle’s alternator and saves fuel and CO2 emissions,” said Leonard Lee, Technical Director of Go-Ahead Singapore, on Tuesday (March 30th).

“The entire setup weighs less than 20 kg – that is very negligible compared to the weight of the entire bus, so that the (fuel) savings are not negated.”

The ultra-thin modules were chosen instead of conventional solar modules because of their low weight and flexibility.

The buses underwent “rigorous safety assessments” by the Land Transport Authority before being approved for public road testing, Go-Ahead said.

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Service 15 – one of the routes on which an electric bus was tested about four years ago – is a 33 km route that departs from the Pasir Ris bus hub and serves areas such as Tampines and Marine Parade.

The company had considered running the trial on shorter routes such as feeder services, but opted for a longer route to better test the system, Lee said.

Solar buses (1)

A go-ahead bus that was fitted with a solar panel in the Loyang Bus Depot on March 30, 2021. (Photo: Zhaki Abdullah)

The buses went into operation on Tuesday and will run for six months until the end of September.

The panels are part of an experiment to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of buses in using solar energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption.

The panels are initially inspected every week for two months, after which the inspection schedule is reviewed.

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The Go-Ahead Group – the parent company of Go-Ahead Singapore – has operated 18 buses with solar panels in Southampton, UK, under its subsidiary Bluestar, for more than a year.

Using these panels has resulted in savings of 1,400 liters of diesel per bus per year, the transport company said.

That means a reduction in CO2 emissions of around 3.7 tons per bus, said Lee of Go-Ahead.

“Because of the success of this trial in Southampton, we decided to bring the idea to Singapore and we believe that the solar panels should make the climate in Singapore even more effective,” said Go-Ahead Singapore General Manager Andrew Thompson.

The two buses with solar panels meet the Euro 6 emissions standard for diesel vehicles, he added.

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The company could expand its installation of solar panels to other buses, including electric ones, depending on the results of the current trial, he said.

As part of Singapore’s 2040 Land Transportation Master Plan, diesel buses will be phased out and replaced with cleaner energy models, including diesel-electric hybrids and all-electric buses.

“Buses are a very efficient form of public transport – they move a lot of people much more efficiently than cars,” Thompson said. “By installing solar panels, we can make diesel buses even more environmentally friendly and efficient.”

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