SINGAPORE: Your bus ride in Singapore could soon be partially powered by the sun.
Bus operator Go-Ahead Singapore has installed ultra-thin solar panels on the roofs of two of its buses, which will run on Service 15. This is the first time such solar panels have been installed on buses here.
The 1.6mm-thick panels will convert solar energy into electricity to charge the buses' batteries.
"This reduces the load on the vehicle's alternator, and in turn saves fuel and reduces carbon emissions," said Go-Ahead Singapore engineering director Leonard Lee on Tuesday (Mar 30).
"The whole setup weighs less than 20kg – that's very negligible compared to the weight of the bus as a whole, so it won't cancel out the (fuel) savings."
The ultra-thin panels were chosen instead of conventional solar panels due to their lightweight and flexible nature.
The buses underwent "rigorous safety assessments" by the Land Transport Authority before being approved for public road trials, Go-Ahead said.
Service 15 – one of the routes where an electric bus was tested about four years ago – is a 33km route starting from Pasir Ris bus interchange and plying areas such as Tampines and Marine Parade.
The firm had considered conducting the trial on shorter routes such as feeder services, but decided on a longer route to better test the system, said Mr Lee.
The buses began operating on Tuesday and will run for six months until the end of September.
The panels are part of a trial to evaluate the buses' performance and effectiveness in using solar energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption.
The panels will initially be inspected every week for two months, after which the inspection schedule will be reviewed.
Go-Ahead Group – the parent company of Go-Ahead Singapore – has operated 18 buses with solar panels in Southampton, Britain, for more than a year under its subsidiary Bluestar.
The use of these panels has resulted in savings of 1,400L of diesel per bus per year, the transport operator said.
This translates into reductions of about 3.7 tonnes of carbon emissions per bus, said Go-Ahead's Mr Lee.
"It was based on the success of that trial in Southampton that we've decided to bring the idea to Singapore, and actually we think the solar panels should be even more effective in the climate in Singapore," said Go-Ahead Singapore managing director Andrew Thompson.
The two buses with solar panels conform to the Euro 6 emissions standard for diesel vehicles, he added.
The firm may expand its installation of solar panels to other buses, including electric ones, depending on findings from the current trial, he said.
As part of Singapore's 2040 Land Transport Master Plan, diesel buses will be phased out and replaced with cleaner energy models, including diesel-electric hybrids and fully electric buses.
"Buses are a very efficient form of public transport – they carry lots of people much more efficiently than cars," said Mr Thompson. "By fitting the solar panels, we can make the diesel buses even more green and efficient."