Electric public transport is coming to Australia and soon commuters in major cities could be whispering about it.
They will be talking in hushed tones because British tests with electric-powered buses apparently found they were so quiet the passengers lowered their voices to match.
And a company providing electric taxis says trials show the softer engine noise and smoother ride reduces the stress levels of drivers and passengers.
Next month 31 fully-electric, double-decker buses will begin on London’s 134 route to the centre of the city.
And next year a single-decker will be in Sydney showing what it can do to transport officials.
They are expensive pieces of machinery — batteries alone can cost $60,000 to $70,000 — but will help lower emissions from transport, particularly dangerous “black carbon” pollution from diesel-fuelled engines.
And they will be able to overcome what is known as “range anxiety” — the fear an electric-powered vehicle will conk out after a short run.
Commercial director of the bus maker Optare, Robert Drewery, dismissed the anxiousness which seems to thrive when electric vehicles are proposed.
“Probably the same concerns when Mr Daimler introduced his vehicle: ‘Oh, never go as far as a horse’,” Mr Drewery said in London. The big difference between the London buses and the one to arrive in Sydney — apart from the number of decks — is the model going to Australia will have better airconditioning to accommodate the hotter weather in Australia.
The new vehicles from Optare — which provides diesel buses to Australia — will be offered as alternatives to diesel and hybrid models in a range of UK cities, including Leeds, Bristol and Birmingham.
And demand is expected to grow as local governments declare inner city low emission zones which could bar conventionally powered cars, trucks and buses or impose a daily toll on them.
The same restrictions would apply to taxis. London cabbie John Dowd has been testing electric cabs for the London Electric Vehicle Company.
They look just like the standard Black London cab but performance is markedly different — and more comfortable.
“I’m quite tall, and in the previous model to this my knee was constantly pressed against the dashboard,” said Mr Dowd.
“And when I got out of the cab to have a cup of tea or a break, I was doubled over. In this I’ve got all the room in the world.”
And customers might also note a change to a smoother, quieter ride for up to six passengers.
Mr Dowd says he is saving about £120 ($A220) a week on fuel. His repayments on the loan to buy the vehicle are £595 ($A1080) a month.
“I’m saving the best part of £500 ($A915) a month on fuel,” he said.
He also is doing his bit to save the atmosphere from greenhouse gas emissions and produce cleaner city air.