London mayor Boris Johnson announces the trial of all-electric bus on route 16 between Cricklewood and Victoria station.
The first fully electric London doubledecker bus will enter service in October, as transport authorities try to reduce the capital’s air pollution levels.
Transport for London said the Chinese-built bus would be the the world’s first purpose-built electric doubledecker.
Until now the battery technology has rendered electric doubledeckers too heavy and expensive, but TfL believes the latest development will be transformational for emissions and air quality.
Peter Hendy, London’s transport commissioner, said of the move to an electric fleet: “It’s essential because the air in your city isn’t clean enough. But it’s only going to be possible if the prices are affordable and the operating costs bearable.”
The buses will run on route 16, which operates between Cricklewood, north-west London, and Victoria station.
On Monday the capital joined dozens of cities around the world in committing to green vehicles, to give bus manufacturers confidence to develop and mass-produce the technology to make electric buses affordable.
At a global clean bus summit at City Hall in London, 24 cities pledged to roll out 40,000 low-emission buses by the end of the decade.
TfL promised that all new buses in London would comply with the ultra-low emission zone that comes into effect from 2020 – a tacit admission that the first hybrid Routemasters commissioned by the mayor, Boris Johnson, will breach the zone’s limits, and are more polluting than the vehicles that have now become available.
More singledecker electric buses will join the eight trialled in south London since 2013.
Johnson said London was a fitting place for the trials of electric doubledeckers, as electric buses had run on its streets more than a century ago, before the London Electrobus company collapsed in 1909.
As a cyclist, he said, he would welcome following an electric bus rather than “the throbbing, belching machines that emit their fumes like wounded war-elephants”.
Oxford Street, the main shopping thoroughfare which is a major bus artery through central London, was found by air quality experts at Kings College London to have some of the highest concentrations of nitrogen dioxide pollution in the world.
While TfL was claiming a world first, York has been running a converted electric doubledecker sightseeing bus on a battery since 2014.