Science Technology Platforms


PAMELA Accessibility Research Group double-deck bus

  •  2011 award to the UCL PAMELA group, for the purchase of a double-deck bus, to be used in accessibility research and fuel cell development.
Accessibility Research Bus

In 2011, the UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering funded the purchase of a double decker bus, for the UCL Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory (PAMELA) to use in experiments. A major stream of work at PAMELA is accessibility research; examining how the design and implementation of transport systems influence the safety and comfort of users.  

Since the bus arrived in January 2013, it has been used in two lines of work. The first examines how passengers are affected by bus acceleration and deceleration, when walking through the upper or lower decks, or when using the stairs. Experimental subjects wear special shoes and gloves with pressure sensors, allowing the researchers to measure changes in posture, balance and gait as the bus manoeuvres. Computer equipment stored behind the driver's cabin collects data on the move allowing for subsequent analysis. The aim of this work is to identify driving practices most compatible with passenger well-being, and thereby inform bus driver training.

The second strand of work involves the development of new hydrogen fuel cells as a means of powering the bus. Existing hydrogen cell technology cannot effectively power large, double deck vehicles. To reduce power consumption and carbon emissions, new fuel cells with improved power cycles need to be created. Researchers from across UCL are collaborating to develop a super-capacitor to capture and store the kinetic energy normally released during braking, and prevent its dissipation as heat. The Department of Mechanical Engineering is working on the power pack itself, Chemical Engineering and Chemistry are investigating methods for purifying hydrogen (necessary for it to perform optimally as a fuel), and PAMELA scientists will integrate the elements into a working system.

The bus was an important strategic investment: experiments can now be performed in a real vehicle, with the desired road conditions. This will allow more meaningful data to be generated than would have been possible before. 

In the future, PAMELA hopes to undertake additional work for London Transport and other transport system providers.