Planet Mark’s fully electric ‘Carbon Battle Bus’ has been on the road for three months. In that time, it has travelled all over the UK, as part of the company’s Zero Carbon Tour. Zap-Map met the on-board team in Glasgow, at COP26, to find out more about their epic journey, and why the team embarked upon it in the first place.
“Sustainability certification is at our core,” says Andrew Griffiths, Director of Community & Partnerships at Planet Mark. “We certify organisations for carbon reduction and the creation of social value. We also work in construction, and certify net-zero carbon construction projects and products. Essentially, we support people on their journeys in sustainability.”
The Planet Mark team started at the Eden Project in June. Since then, they have travelled to Northern Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland, all in their 100% electric Yutong coach.
“I think we were the first nutters to try and take a bus on a full tour of the UK, which we only realised when we started driving down to Cornwall. In three months, we’ve been everywhere and we’ve managed it,” says Griffiths.
“Cornwall was our first go at this, and we’ve been travelling all over the country since then. Obviously other electric coaches do exist, but they tend either to operate in a single city, or or they tend to be operating on a closed loop.”
The objective of the Zero Carbon Tour – which Planet Mark is conducting in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the United Nations’ Race to Zero campaign – is to “get the net zero message out there and help people do some carbon jargon busting,” according to Griffiths.
“We’ve had over 7,000 people come to events we’ve hosted across the country and been to over 100 locations. It’s been a wonderful journey.”
It’s a journey that has in part been made possible by Zap-Map, which has enabled the team to plan in advance as well as find back-up charging options.
“We’ve had to plan very carefully and we have used Zap-Map, religiously, to plan where we were going,” says Griffiths. “If we needed to find alternatives, we could find them very quickly. So one of the most useful things was being able to plan in advance. Being able to filter was crucial as well.”
The objective of the Zero Carbon Tour is to “get the net zero message out there.”
“Zap-Map’s community element is also really powerful,” he continues, “because the bus is a bit picky in how it likes its electric beverages.
“It needs a minimum of a 50 kW charger, but we’ve been aiming for 100 kW+ chargers. There are certain manufacturers the bus works with and certain manufacturers it doesn’t. You’ll go to an Ionity charge point and it likes the ABB chargers, but not the Tritium ones.”
While the Carbon Battle Bus has a 200-mile range, the team have found that in reality this means they always need to be within 90 miles of a compatible charging device.
“If I had an electric car, I wouldn’t really worry much about charging. There are no doubt irritations where charge points aren’t working, but with the electric bus – once we knew what we needed to do – we’ve only ended up in one situation where a charge point failed us. Generally, we’ve been fine and wherever we’ve gone we’ve found charge,” says Griffiths.
“With the bus, we need to think about voltage, which most electric vehicle owners don’t need to think about,” he continues. “But because the bus needs a slightly higher voltage, this is why the Tritium chargers don’t work. They look exactly the same as an ABB device when branded as Ionity, but they have a different voltage – and that’s where the incompatibility came from.”
“In three months, we’ve been everywhere and we’ve managed it.”
Planet Mark’s Zero Carbon Tour has certainly been full of logistics, practicalities and technicalities. But it’s also a journey with a clear purpose – to get the net zero message out there.
In all their myriad encounters across the UK, the team have been encouraging people to share their carbon reduction stories. Perhaps someone has switched to an electric vehicle, for example, installed solar panels for their home, or changed to a renewable energy provider.
“Brilliant! Tell people about it,” says Griffiths. “Because when you share your story, that inspires other people to take action and ultimately that gets people to achieve our ultimate call to action, which is – whichever group or organisation you are a part of – to set a credible net-zero commitment.”
Griffiths and the rest of the Carbon Battle Bus team – including Patrick the ‘bus ninja’ driver – are full of stories from their trip, as well as an enthusiasm that’s there for all to see. But have they achieved what they set out to do?
“It’s been a privilege to have this opportunity to travel all over the UK. What’s given me a huge amount of hope is hearing tangible examples of organisations, community groups, schools, universities, hospitals and councils taking action to reduce their carbon footprint,” says Griffiths.
“It’s reassured me a great deal personally that stuff is happening – and that’s because I’ve been able to go and hear it. Sharing what’s working is one of the most powerful things we can do to accelerate change.”
You can find out more about the Carbon Battle Bus and its epic journey on the Planet Mark website. The electric bus will begin its longest journey yet on Saturday 13th November, when it will make the trip from Glasgow to London.