You know that feeling when you spend forever waiting for a bus, and then dozens come all at once?
Wales’ first-ever electric bus sets off on its regular route in Newport this week. But it’s only the beginning — 66 more are on their way to Wales next year in a green wave of regional sustainable transport.
Newport will get an additional 14 buses, Caerphilly will receive 16, while the capital Cardiff — where an electric bus was first trialled in the country last year — will have 36.
It’s part of a £48 million grant scheme from the Department of Transport to promote greener public transport in England and Wales and help fight air pollution.
“It’s lovely to drive, nice and smooth,” one driver told BBC News while behind the wheel. “Nice and quiet, which is always a bonus because some of the buses are so noisy, so this will be a pleasure to drive.”
The Newport bus cost £250,000 to convert from its old job as a display vehicle, saving £90,000 by not buying it brand new.
It can drive around the city all day on a single charge, running for 116 miles before an overnight recharge.
The BBC reports that the batteries cost £150,000 and should be replaced every six years. However, Newport Transport has a deal with the company that will continue to own and maintain the batteries, meaning it “effectively buys the energy off them.”
"The Welsh government has already declared a climate emergency [and] there are a number of poor air quality zones in Newport that need to be addressed," said Scott Pearson, managing director of Newport Transport. "So the first electric vehicles are going to go on one of those routes — that's Caerleon and back — that's got three poor air quality zones in it."
"With the M4 relief road now not being built, I think buses can offer that alternative of mass transportation and if we do it with electric vehicles, it ticks so many boxes,” he added. "We can carry up to 70 or 80 people on a double-decker. I think it will hopefully reduce the congestion in Newport."
Wales declared a climate emergency on April 29, the day after Scotland did the same at the Scottish National Party conference. The rest of the UK followed suit with a motion passed through the House of Commons in May.
Cardiff has been in the news this summer for being a hotspot for environment and climate change demonstrations.
The direct action group Extinction Rebellion chose Cardiff as one of its five “centres of disruption” in its most recent push to drive politicians to accelerate progress in the fight against the climate crisis.
Protesters caused severe delays in July as they shut down the busy road outside Cardiff Castle with a massive green boat. It lasted three days and according to organisers "achieved mass public awareness."
The new buses in Wales are the latest in a series of bus routes going electric around the country. The number 43 bus route in London became the city’s first zero-emissions route in July and Greater Manchester has also been awarded funding for dozens of electric buses.