Redbridge champions greener travel with trial of largest fleet of solar powered vehicles in London

Mick Ferris

Redbridge Council is championing greener travel by operating the largest London trial of council fleet using solar power to help run its vehicles.

Under the innovative green scheme, 25 council vehicles including refuse trucks, minibuses, and vans, have been adapted to fit solar panels to use sunlight to help power the vehicles.

The move is part of the council’s wider work to create a greener and cleaner Redbridge by supporting local people to reduce their carbon footprint in the borough, as well as taking steps to reduce carbon emissions from council owned buildings and vehicles.

Since the trial began in September 2022, council fleets fitted with solar panels have achieved a 9452kg reduction in CO2, which is the equivalent CO2 emissions of flying from the UK to Australia, and back. The eco-friendly fleet has also saved over 3500 litres in fuel and used 2,131kwh less energy compared with non-solar panelled vehicles.

The use of solar panels on council fleet is a first for Redbridge and works by harnessing sunlight to create the electrical energy needed to help power the vehicles’ battery.

On normal vehicles the alternator is the component generating the electricity needed to continuously power the vehicle’s battery as the engine runs.

On vehicles with solar panels the alternator does not have to create as much electricity because the solar panels are also charging the battery – and as the alternator has to work less it means it does not need so much power and energy from the engine either, resulting in a fuel saving.

Although the fleet cannot run on solar power alone, the move towards a hybrid scheme is another step towards reducing carbon emissions in the borough under Redbridge’s Climate Change Action Plan.

Cabinet Member for Environment and Sustainability Cllr Jo Blackman said: “This is another positive and innovative step forward in our on-going commitment to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality in the borough, creating a healthier, cleaner and greener environment for our communities to enjoy.”

Redbridge is one of only a few boroughs across the capital to use the panels and following the success of the trial is now adopting the technology on a more permanent basis, with plans to use the panels on more of its fleet.

The solar panels also pave the way for council vehicles that aren’t yet electric to make greener journeys while the fleet transitions to EV.

Redbridge is also expanding its electric vehicle network with the introduction of more on-street EV charge points as part of its commitment towards decarbonisation, and cleaning up local air quality.

For more information on Redbridge’s Climate Change Action Plan and how the borough is supporting local people to make greener lifestyle choices and adopt more sustainable travel go to: https://www.redbridge.gov.uk/about-the-council/climate-change/

Mick Ferris

Editor Email: mickferris@yellowad.co.uk