South African bus services company located in Cape Town, Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS), officially launched the first active electric bus in South Africa this week.
Golden Arrow’s remarkable 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.
Given the success of projects to date, Golden Arrow decided to take on its next project – testing an electric bus in Cape Town. The company has partnered with BYD (a bus manufacturer) and uYilo (the co-funder) to test two 100% electric buses for a 12-month period.
Sufficient testing has now been done to comfortably take the next big step. As of July 2021, the two electric buses have been incorporated into Golden Arrow’s day-to-day operations, carrying passengers between Retreat in the southern suburbs and the central business district in Cape Town.
Golden Arrow’s trailblazing transport solutions include the testing of free wifi on buses, an electronic smartcard fare system and now, the first electric bus to operate in active service in South Africa.
Golden Arrow currently 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 boasts an over 96% on-time rating for first departures.
Having celebrated its 160th anniversary this year, the iconic Golden Arrow green and orange brand is synonymous with value for money and reliability. What many people may not be aware of, however, is the level of innovation that this RTMS-accredited bus service has achieved.
Transport and Public Works Minister in the Western Cape, Daylin Mitchell said: “ 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. My department endorses innovation programmes such as this one given the challenges experienced by our commuters in the absence of the passenger rail system.”
He added: “The narrative around safety on Golden Arrow busses is very different. After taking a ride in this bus, I am confident passengers will feel safe during their journey.”
Golden Arrow Engineer, Gideon Neethling said the testing phase of the electric bus has been 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,” said Neethling.
Neethling added that there is 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.