Cape Town’s first electric bus service goes live

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 07 Jul 2021

Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS) has deployed two fully electric buses in Cape Town, in efforts to reduce its carbon emissions and provide a safer mode of transport for citizens in the mother city.

This week, the bus service, together with transport and public works minister Daylin Mitchell, officially launched what is billed as SA’s first electric bus service.

As of this month, the two electric buses have been incorporated into Golden Arrow’s day-to-day operations, carrying passengers between Retreat and Cape Town.

GABS says its renewable energy journey started in 2017 with the pilot installation of two solar plants of 25kWp each. The results were encouraging and ultimately led to two of its facilities being declared carbon-neutral in 2020.

Golden Arrow says it then decided to take on its next project − testing of electric buses which took place over the past year. Sufficient testing has now been done to comfortably take the next step – going live.

“The Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works and Golden Arrow Bus Services are working together on various technology solutions to improve public transport in the province,” said Mitchell during the launch event.

“My department endorses innovation programmes such as this one, given the challenges experienced by our commuters in the absence of the passenger rail system. The narrative around safety on Golden Arrow buses is very different. After taking a ride in this bus, I am confident passengers will feel safe during their journey.”

Golden Arrow operates a contract for scheduled passenger bus services administered by the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works. The company operates more than 1 000 peak-hour buses, transporting some 250 000 passengers daily, and claims an over 96% on-time rating for first departures.

Golden Arrow says its transport solutions also include the testing of free WiFi on buses and an electronic smart card fare system.

To ensure passenger safety, Golden Arrow says it spends R12 million per annum on personal protective equipment to ensure passengers and staff adhere to COVID-19 regulations.

The company partnered with bus manufacturer BYD Company and the uYilo eMobility Programme to test two 100% electric buses for a 12-month period.

Golden Arrow engineer Gideon Neethling said the testing phase of the electric buses was rigorous.

“For the first few months we tested the buses in a range of circumstances without passengers. The aim was to get to know exactly how these vehicles perform before incorporating them into our operations. Testing these vehicles has been a joy for everyone who is part of the project. Each time we carry out a new test or reach a new milestone, the level of excitement increases further.”

Neethling added there was much to be learned about the new bus, including electricity usage under different conditions, charge time between trips, possible scheduling challenges as a result of charge times, maintenance needs, battery degradation and other general operational challenges compared to the currently used internal combustion engine.