Public buses with solar panels in 6-month trial, Singapore News & Top Stories

Public buses with ultra-thin solar panels took to the streets yesterday in a six-month proof-of-concept test by the bus operator Go-Ahead Singapore.

This is the first time that such solar modules, which are 1.6mm thick, flexible and shatterproof, have been installed on buses in Singapore.

They were installed on the roof of two diesel-powered Man A22 Euro 6 buses. The buses are used in Service 15, which starts and ends at the Pasir Ris Bus Interchange. The test runs until September.

Weighing less than 20 kg, the solar modules deliver 1,000 watts of power. This is used to charge the battery on the buses that would otherwise rely on the vehicle’s alternator. This in turn reduces the load on the engine.

The bus battery is typically used for ignition and powering components such as lights and surveillance cameras when the engine is off.

The panels are designed to help Go-Ahead Singapore save 1,400 liters of diesel per bus and year.

This is around 3 to 4 percent of the fuel normally used by such diesel buses and means a reduction in CO2 emissions of 3.7 tons per bus per year.

These figures are based on data from a similar trial that Go-Ahead Singapore’s parent company has been conducting in Southampton, UK, since 2019, where 18 buses are currently equipped with these solar panels.

The six-month trial aims to evaluate how effectively the panels are using solar energy here and to ensure that the panels can withstand the higher temperatures and daily washing of the buses.

According to Andrew Thompson, Managing Director of Go-Ahead Singapore, the efficiency of the solar modules in tropical Singapore is expected to be higher.

He said, “If we see the kind of savings and benefits that we expect, we would certainly try to build them into more buses, including electric buses.

“Many of the diesel buses in Singapore still have a service life of many years. By installing the solar panels, we can make the diesel buses even more environmentally friendly and efficient.”

The cost of the panels is expected to come from savings made by reducing fuel consumption after four years.

On a Facebook post, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said the process was “another small step towards a greener public transport system.”

The government has committed to phasing out all diesel buses by 2040 and replacing them with electric buses or diesel-electric hybrids.

According to Go-Ahead Singapore, the two buses with solar panels have undergone rigorous safety assessments by the Land Transport Authority and are approved for public road tests.

The modules, which are at least three times thinner than some conventional solar modules, are checked weekly for the first two months. The operator then performs a review to determine the appropriate inspection plan.

Technical Director Leonard Lee said, “Usually solar panels are large and very heavy.” So there are concerns about having them installed on top of the bus.

“The ones we use are ultra-thin and very light. So we have no problems in that regard.”

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