Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith, This page created 18th June 2015. Best on 800*600.

London Hybrid Cadets: Electrocitys

The Electrocity demonstrator

London Buses first experimented with a Wright hybrid single decker back in 2003, when Wrightbus loaned their Electrocity demonstrator to Arriva for a short trial on the 184 (Turnpike Lane - Barnet). The trial was brief, and the hybrid: a DAF SB120 powered by a diesel engined turbine generator, lead-acid batteries and electric motors, was returned to Wrights. It came back to London to East Thames Buses, who used it on the 42 (Denmark Hill - Liverpool Street). It spent time with many other operators too.

It returned to London Central at Camberwell in June 2006, when their fleet of six WHYs was seldom providing any buses for service, but did not help the situation (It was still on a Wrights O-licence, so was not useable as a normal bus by London Central). In October it went on loan to Cardiff Buses, and returned to Wrights by the end of the year.

London Central: WHY1-6

WHY Electrocity sketch London Central was the next to bite the bullet, with six delivered in December 2005-February 2006. Again power to the wheels was through electric motors fed by a battery pack. This was topped up by energy retrieved during braking, and a small diesel generator. January 2006 was spent with two used for training. Some dribbled into service on the 360 (Elephant & Castle - Royal Albert Hall) in February, alongside LDPs. WHY1 was sent to the Millbrook Test Centre for testing. WHY2 and WHY5, which had been used for training in January, were among the first to carry passengers. During February there were numerous problems, with seldom more than two of the available five in service. Not a good start. Chronic unreliability continued to dog the small class. During the spring of 2006 it was a good day when one was in service!

The demonstrator, now in London red, was borrowed in June, but also seldom (if ever) appeared in service. By August the WHYs were in store, the problems of dealing with breakdowns not being worth the effort required. The LDPs continued to maintain the route, as they had throughout the experiment.

But someone persisted. In September 2006 WHY6 reappeared on the 360, and continued to do so. More received extra cooling systems, with an extra grille, and the fuel tank for the diesel engine was enlarged : until now they had insufficient fuel for a day's duty! Availability improved to a 50% norm before the end of the year! They were still heartily disliked by the crews, who felt thoroughly messed about by the buses. Despite the changes availability continued to be poor. A red-letter day was August 17th 2007, when five out of six were working!

Abellio 8801-8805

Abellio Electrocity sketch Abellio acquired five Electrocitys in November 2007. These were to a revised design. Instead of using parts from the VDL SB120 chassis, the new design used parts from the VDL SB180. Wrightbus constructed new hybrids at a slightly shorter length (10.3m instead of 10.4m), and with a revised cooling system, resulting in a large red sail on the rear of the bus. It looked most odd!

They went into service from Walworth - just across the road from the WHYs at Camberwell - on the Greenwich local route 129. Reliability, OK at first, gradually went the same way as with the WHYs, resulting in many being side-lined in 2010, making only sporadic appearances. The 129 was lost to Go-Ahead London in June 2011, and the Electrocitys went into store officially.

But in September they were transferred to Fulwell, ostensibly for the 490, but in practice on the R70 (Richmond - Hampton). After a good start there, performance gradually deteriorated. They were withdrawn in October/November 2012, after just five years of sporadic use.

WHY7 Electrocity sketch


WHY7 arrived with London Central at Camberwell in January 2008. It was instantly recognisable, as it had a large red sail on the rear of the roof, like the Abellio buses, presumably part of a cooler group, as the earlier model suffered from over-heating. It certainly seemed much more reliable than the earlier buses, and was even allowed to go on holiday with occasional railway replacement work! WHY4 was rebuilt with a similar fin, possibly after a fire at Camberwell, and was also more reliable than its siblings.
WHY7 at Elephant & Castle, July 2015 WHY7 at Elephant & Castle, July 2015
WHY 7 rounds the engineering work in the roundabout at Elephant & Castle, 31st July 2015. By now it has a standard white pod.


Re-engineered Electrocity sketch During the summer of 2010, after a period when availability of WHY1-6 was back down to one or two a day, the early batch were sent off to Wrights for re-engineering. The batteries were changed over from lead-acid to lithium-ion, and the paltry 1.9 litre Vauxhall engines were replaced by Cummins 4.5 litre engines. The hybrid management system was converted from Enova to Siemens. Externally they appeared much the same - except for the LARGE white pods on the rear roofs, used to house the batteries. They came back in April/May 2011, and resumed service on the 360 after a short period of testing. Livery of the returned buses was now just red, without the "cannabis" decoration. It took several weeks before they received London Central standard livery, with charcoal skirts and yellow trim-line as well as fleetnames, numbers and green "hybrid" logos.

4th August 2011 was another landmark day, with all of WHY1-7 in service on the 360!

London Central: WHY8-13

Also in August 2011 another six WHYs arrived, to the new specification. They came to Camberwell too, to complete the allocation on the 360. They seemed to have cracked the reliability problem, and they soon began to appear on other routes, such as the P5 (Patmore Estate - Elephant & Castle) and 42 (Denmark Hill - Liverpool Street Stn). From July 2012 one appeared regularly on the 355 (Mitcham - Tooting - Balham - Brixton).

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