Works are complete on First phase of landmark rapid charging station on First Bus Glasgow Caledonia depot ahead of the city hosting COP26 later this year. 

First Bus, Scotland’s largest bus operator, is now able to fully charge buses in its growing electric fleet in just four hours as Phase One of a major works programme completes at what is set to be the UK’s largest Electric Vehicle (EV) charging hub.

Glasgow’s Caledonia bus depot has reached a key milestone in its green transformation plans with the installation of 11 advanced rapid 150kW dual cable charging units. This first phase of work has been completed ahead of a new batch of 22 electric buses arriving at the depot ahead of COP26, and marks a significant step forward in First Bus’ plans to have a zero-emission fleet by 2035.

With phased completion for the remainder of the work scheduled to take place across the next 12 months, the depot has been designed to accommodate and charge up to 300 EV buses on site – and will see the introduction of  150 electric buses over the next 18 months.

The state-of-the-art dual cable direct current rapid charging units have been supplied, installed and commissioned by Dutch rapid charging business Heliox, and have the power to charge a standard family car in less than 10 minutes*.

Each rapid charging station will be controlled via smart charging software to ensure that power is used in the most efficient way. This approach will help minimise the draw down from the national grid at peak times. The digital programming will also mean that each vehicle is fully charged, and the bus interiors are preheated, ready for drivers and customers from the moment the vehicles leave the depot.

With an additional 69 rapid chargers to be installed in Phase Two, Caledonia depot will soon be able to charge 162 vehicles at one time.

Following completion, the adapted depot will have the capability to charge 89% of the depot’s electric bus fleet at the same time using smart charging software. First Bus’ long-term objective is to ensure that the site is fully prepared for the transition to a 100% zero-emission fleet. This will include opportunities for further on-site renewable energy generation and storage.

Duncan Cameron, Interim Managing Director for First Bus in Scotland, said: “This is a proud moment for all of the First Bus Scotland team – especially the local depot staff, who can now see the exciting future ahead for the company as this project comes to life. These 150 new electric buses are set to transform not just our emissions, but customer experience too, as they offer a much smoother and quieter journey.

“Locally, at First Glasgow, we have led the way in the city toward the decarbonisation of public transport with the adoption of the country’s first Low Emission Zone and now we are once again raising the bar with state-of-the-art rapid charging that has the potential to change the game for the transition to Electric transport across the whole city. We are proud to unveil our Caledonia depot charging station ahead of COP26 which has the potential to charge a double decker bus in just four hours.”

First Glasgow’s fleet of 150 fully EV buses are being built by Falkirk-based manufacturer  Alexander Dennis, and will arrive at the newly transformed depot in batches over the next 18 months with the final buses entering service early in  2023.

The depot transformation is being delivered thanks to over £63m of funding: First Bus is investing £35.6m into the project, while the Scottish Government’s Scottish Ultra Low Bus Scheme (SULEB) is funding a further £28.2m. 

Minister for Transport Graeme Dey said: “By completing this phase of transformation at the First Bus Caledonia depot, we will see electric buses built in Scotland operating and charging in Glasgow during COP26. This is a powerful signal of the partnerships that exist between industry and government and our joint commitment to attract investment in a net zero transport future.

“The Scottish Government has a bold ambition to remove the majority of fossil fuelled buses from public transport by 2023 – but we cannot do this alone. The climate leadership that First Bus has demonstrated is significant, having invested over £35 million for this facility in addition to the £28 million offered through our Scottish Ultra Low Emission Bus Scheme.

“Looking at the scale of ambition demonstrated at the Caledonia depot, it’s clear that a zero-emission bus network is much closer than we might think.”

First Bus’s power solutions partner for this project, Dutch company Heliox, is a global leader in high power charging systems for public transport, trucks and heavy-duty vehicles and equipment.

Michael Colijn, Chief Executive Officer at Heliox Group said: “As we have seen, the future of e-mobility is built on rapid charging, and ensuring the charging infrastructure is in place to make this a possibility must be a priority. Our partnership with First Bus to bring versatile, convenient charging to the city of Glasgow puts us in a unique position ahead of COP26 later this year, to make a significant contribution to the discussions at the event, as well as positively impacting fleet owners across the UK. Our unique charging offering ensures fleet owners are able to effectively deploy and manage their e-fleets while serving cities of the future.”

The work of SP Energy Networks, the electricity network owner and operator for central and southern Scotland, has been vital to First Bus’ transition to a zero carbon fleet as it has provided the additional electrical capacity required to connect the new bus charging infrastructure at the depot.

Part of this work has included a £6 million investment in a new substation, constructed on land provided by First Bus, near the Caledonia depot by the end of 2022. This reinforcement of the electricity network south of the River Clyde in Glasgow also creates additional headroom to ensure that local businesses, amenities and housing can decarbonise the transport system without concerns over capacity and security of the electricity supply and is part of SP Energy Networks’ ‘Green Recovery’ initiative to provide capacity ahead of need.

Frank Mitchell, Chief Executive of SP Energy Networks, said: “With more than a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions coming from transport, decarbonising this sector is vital if we are to deliver on government Net Zero targets. And our electricity networks have a critical role when it comes to the delivery of ambitious Net Zero plans across Scotland like those announced by First Bus – they are the key to making this happen.

“With Glasgow hosting COP26 in just over a month, the eyes of the world will be on us and we have a fantastic opportunity to showcase some of the work we are doing with key transport partners like First Bus to support the global campaign against climate change.

“We are proud to be playing our part in supporting Glasgow’s transition to zero carbon transport at the pace and scale needed to support the city’s people and businesses on the journey to Net Zero.”