This success story was first published in April 2022 NCUB’s in showcasing booklet, International Interactions. Read the booklet in full here.

Electric buses are key to reducing air and noise pollution in cities. Just having one e-Bus travelling approximately 200 km per day can save about 60 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, compared to even the most modern diesel buses. For this reason, the electrification of local public transport and efficiency in managing the recharging process has a vital role to play in climate measures in cities and achieving a net zero economy.

Together, Newcastle University and Siemens are developing cutting-edge artificial intelligence solutions to maximise the energy efficiency of electrically-powered public transport, directly benefiting the transport industry and the environment.

Electric buses can be powered on-board by battery or fed continuously from an external source. Industry-wide, there is still little known about how batteries lose performance and degrade over time.

Siemens identified a gap in their understanding of battery degradation and knew that obtaining this knowledge would be a significant development task; not something that could be achieved through their current staff or by consultancy.

It was only through collaborating with the unique offering of Newcastle University’s experts and academics that a ground-breaking solution would be developed – together. The project was funded by UKRI through Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership programme.

The first 12 months of the project saw a significant change in the market direction, which resulted in a realignment of research priorities toward electric transport. The Newcastle team was integrated into a global project, working alongside teams in India, Portugal, Germany and the USA.

As a direct result of this Knowledge Transfer Partnership, an artificial intelligence algorithm was developed to enable the complex management of when and for how long electric vehicles, like buses and trucks, are recharged in large depots.

Using this new algorithm reduces the total E-fleet charging cost by up to 27% and a total reduction in maximum power peak of up to 50%, compared to unmanaged charging. The savings for e-depot operators are significant, pressure is taken off the grid at peak times, and there is less unnecessary power usage as electric vehicle battery charging can be scheduled based on estimated energy requirement for their next trip.

Such scheduling is a part of the algorithm’s state of the art multi-stage planning process, which responds to real-time problems like vehicle delays, bad weather, traffic conditions, broken connectors, breakdowns and important maintenance requirements.

Professor Mike Capaldi, the Dean of Innovation and Business at Newcastle University, said: “A core part of Newcastle University’s mission is to utilise our expertise in research to make a difference out there. This industrial collaborative research project has ticked all the boxes in that all parties are delighted with the outcome and Siemens now has a product on the market that will increase the efficiency of charging electric vehicles, taking us a step closer to achieving net zero carbon and reducing pollution in our cities.”

Siemens plan to offer this software to their customers as a software and service solution, provisioned from the cloud and sold on a subscription basis. In addition to the optimisation engine for infrastructure planning, the project also helped develop a simulation tool which is currently used by Siemens in the depot planning process around the world.

Dr Haris Patsios, Senior Lecturer in Power Systems at Newcastle University said: “This collaborative project was ranked as ‘Outstanding’ by Innovate UK. It’s contributed to an industrial product having direct impact on energy efficiency and decarbonisation, which has a projected annual sales turnover of £4 Million in the next three years. There’s actually not much more to wish for.”