Design, build, operate: how VEV is powering Tootbus’ fleet electrification strategy

Design, build, operate: how VEV is powering Tootbus’ fleet electrification strategy

By Simon Cubitt, Strategic Partnerships Director E-Mobility, VEV

Tootbus is the world’s first clean energy sightseeing bus company. Owned by RATP Dev, it’s a leading operator of hop-on hop-off bus tours in Bath, London, Paris, and Brussels.

The company first started investing in its green strategy in 2021, when it converted its fleet to hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) fuel, reducing its CO2 emissions by 90%. Tootbus’ objective is to be a 100% EV fleet by 2030.

Moving to the next phase of its decarbonisation strategy, Tootbus appointed VEV to develop its fleet electrification plan for its London operations at the power-constrained depot in Wandsworth, London.  The company needed a cost-effective, future-proof infrastructure solution supported by smart charging to enable its zero emission operations.

Cost and availability of power is a critical factor when electrifying buses and Tootbus required a holistic power strategy to satisfy its green agenda and the power constraints at the depot.

Just one of the buses requires around 60,000 kWh per year (about the same as 22 average UK homes) so it’s vital to get this right.

I’ll explain more about how we delivered against these requirements with VEV’s end-to-end decarbonisation offer, but before I do let’s start with the most important part – the customer’s core business…

Non-negotiable:  maintain a reliable bus service

Gavin Brooking, Managing Director, Tootbus UK, told us, “Green tourism is at the heart of our business strategy and is an important investment for us. We recognise the enormous potential that switching to a complete end-to-end sustainable electric fleet could have in helping us achieve our emissions-reduction goals.”

But the decarbonisation mission cannot compromise Tootbus’ service which has to be as resilient and reliable as it was before electrification.

So Tootbus needed to partner with a fleet electrification provider that would really understand their business and manage its electrification journey on an ongoing basis.

Given that the depot is situated in a Grade 2 listed building, it was also important to consider how this would affect the build and installation of the infrastructures of the new EV depot, while ensuring minimum disruption to day-to-day operations

Understanding fleet requirements to deliver right-sized charging infrastructure

Right-sizing charging infrastructure based on a fleet’s specific needs is paramount to ensure a resilient, cost-effective electric fleet. Our experience is that EV fleets can be over-specified by as much as 20% in their electrification plans without adequate planning. You need to think about the right mix of vehicles and chargers for your operation.  It may not simply be a one-for-one ratio of vehicles to chargers.

As such, we like to get under the skin of a fleet’s operations, so as a first step, we analysed Tootbus’ data points, including vehicle mileage, schedules, seasonal variations, charging windows and current power demand.

We then developed a detailed electrification plan, covering charging infrastructure, solar generation, smart charging schedules, renewable power supply and future power upgrades.

The plan ensured that Tootbus could operate its electric buses today despite depot power constraints, without comprising its core business operations or incurring unnecessary cost.  The plan also ensured that there was a future-proofed plan to enable its ambition of being a 100% EV fleet by 2030.

Critical energy strategy working with power constraints and a listed building

As I mentioned, a holistic power strategy is critical to an effective EV transition, and we conducted detailed economic modelling to determine the optimum power strategy for Tootbus.

We recommended that solar power generation and a new renewable power supply deal supported by the VEV-IQ smart charging & energy management platform would reduce Tootbus’ energy costs as well as carbon emissions. 

The analysis of the depot and current power consumption determined that a solar PV solution was a viable option and will pay for itself within 4 years. The solar solution provides Tootbus with a degree of energy security from potential shocks to the energy markets.

The roof-mounted 90kWp solar PV solution at Tootbus’ Wandsworth depot will generate the equivalent power for one of their buses to travel around 60,000km per year with clean energy.  

We advised Tootbus that with careful charging scheduling, they could maximise utilisation of the solar power when the sun shines, reducing power usage from the grid at those times. Excess power would therefore be minimal and sold back to the grid.

We also provided a 100% REGO-backed renewable energy supply agreement through a VEV partner.

We explored the option of installing battery storage at the depot to store unused solar power.  Our calculations found that the solar option alone was more cost-effective and that battery storage would not be an appropriate  investment in this instance.

We take the responsibility for gaining planning permission for our customers’ installations. In this case, permission is needed for the solar installation, and with the Tootbus Wandsworth depot being a Grade 2 listed building, we are also working within those added constraints. The process is currently underway.

Optimising depot charging infrastructure design and build

We worked closely with Ben Parry, Director of Operations at Tootbus UK to design and build the infrastructure at the depot. You can see him speak about the build phase in this video as he walks around the depot.

Speaking about the approach, Ben said:  ‘‘The whole process was unobtrusive. We were able to carry on operating as normal. It didn’t interfere in our work whatsoever. It was really simple and straightforward.’’

Smart energy management platform – VEV-IQ

VEV-IQ is our proprietary software platform that enables Tootbus to monitor the EV fleet including energy usage, charging schedules and vehicle state of charge. A TV monitor was installed in the depot to view the dashboards in real-time. Watch this video to see to see what VEV-IQ does.

We provided staff training on VEV-IQ to ensure Tootbus can effectively manage its energy use, oversee its charging schedule and monitor technical faults remotely.

In addition to remote fault monitoring from VEV-IQ, we also provide a full operations and maintenance package to Tootbus to ensure EV bus operations are fully supported.

The current solar project is forecasting a CO2  saving of 15,567kg per year. To date, Tootbus has repowered 3 buses to electric, and by 2029, the company will have converted over 30 buses from HVO fuel into electric vehicles (EVs).

Get in touch with one of our expert team and find out more about how VEV’s end-to-end service can power your EV transition.

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