Saturday, October 28, 2017

Electric Buses Charging Ahead

Nice article by David Roberts on electric buses. A similar range of opinion that we see on passenger EVs - they're coming, and someday they'll take over, but medium terms predictions are all over the map.

Roberts is on the bullish end, saying electric will dominate by 2030. I agree with the fact that in the US, federal support for capital costs shifts the incentives strongly to cheap O&M for local governments, and that's where electric shines. Why should they buy non-electric?

I can give one reason - when I was on the board of a water district, I pushed for an internal EV mandate. Our O&M staff pushed back, saying our service bay already was too small and they couldn't service two types of vehicles (I think they've since added them). So inertia is a problem.

Roberts is putting a lot of his optimistic eggs in a single basket, the Proterra electric bus maker. Let's hope they and their competitors succeed in a revolution, but it's still early days.

My guess is that Roberts is likely right. Financial incentives and pollution incentives are strong. I think Roberts also underplayed the convenience factor. EV buses have more torque, so you can redesign and accelerate your routes and get your passengers to destinations faster, especially hilly routes or ones with lots of stops - but only if all the buses on the route are electric. Cities will be incentivized to switch to all-EV buses.

An early test of these predictions is whether bus manufacturers slow down on the R&D for ICE buses. We should see that in less than 10 years if EV buses really are going to be predominant-to-exclusive by 2030.

On a personal note, my wife and I are very slowly getting more used to buses. Going down to one car between us is a good incentive. The train is great, but I still tend to put my bike on the train or use GoBike rather than find a bus at the end of the train route. Despite that, there's a great bus route to San Francisco Airport that's far more convenient and cheaper than parking a car there, and another along the main drag here in San Mateo County that's also pretty good for shorter trips. Maybe faster EV buses would get us onboard more.

Here ya go Brian.  Already in service in Krakow Poland Solaris Urbino 8.9.  100 km range, 4 hour charge time - Eli


Tom said...

2050 is more realistic, but hopefully it can be pushed to sometime between 2030 and 2050

David B Benson said...

What will assist considerably is induction loop charging at stops. There is such a route in South Korea.

Even better would be induction loops all along the route but I don't know the economics.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

" Even better would be induction loops all along the route but I don't know the economics."

Trams are trams- light rail stands second only to maglev as the black hole of public transportation economics

Canman said...

Buses are better than trolleys. They can even be painted to look like trolleys, with little decorative cowcatchers:

For electric buses, perhaps they could be equipped with swappable batteries.

Fernando Leanme said...

Makes more sense to use a hybrid vehicle, use a small 100 hp gasoline engine running at an almost fixed output, which allows using the engine waste heat to keep passengers warm, and reduces the battery pack. Plus in an emergency (if batteries run out) can be used to drive the bus at low speed. I believe a 75 kWh pack costs about $13000 USD, this allows the hybrid to have a very low incremental cost, and also allows a bus to run all electric in areas where pollution is more of a problem.

JamieB said...

Installing induction charging (another thing that Roberts is bullish about) at stops is a major undertaking and given the direction battery prices are taking I'd be amazed if installing induction charging at each stop was cost-effective but I've never seen any figures. Certainly it wouldn't be particularly useful here in London where you regularly have multiple buses arriving simultaneously at bus stops during peak times. It could make sense at the ends of routes and bus stops where drivers change over though I guess.

In London we've got a small (but world's largest!) and growing electric bus fleet and aspirations to have all zero emission buses by 2037:

JamieB said...

I should clarify that Roberts is bullish about induction (i.e. wireless) charging in general, not specifically bus induction charging. You can read his piece here:

Suwannee Dave said...

The problem is that too much R&D is going into driver-less vehicles, which are a dead end. With the world's population already over capacity, we don't need more individual vehicles, but effective mass transportation. As for me, I am retired so no longer commuting to work. I am within easy bicycling distance from 2 groceries, a hardware store, post office, drug store, banks, and a few restaurants.

Nigel Franks said...

Surely taxis/cabs are the low hanging fruit for electrification in cities. Low average speeds, lots of sitting around in traffic and stop/go driving are the ideal environment for EVs.

Mark said...

As an interesting and somewhat amusing (or is that depressing?) aside, my home town, Wellington, New Zealand, has had electric buses that get their power from overhead wires for several decades now. But a year or two ago, the decision was made to phase these out. The reasons were: a) the need to upgrade an electric substation supplying the wires, at considerable expense; and b) the ongoing expense of maintaining the wires, not to mention the inconvenience of the frequent wire-jumping and outages. The idea was that these buses would be replaced by plug-in hybrids to be introduced in the middle of 2017. The current situation in late 2017 is that the hybrids are going to be introduced some time soon, maybe, the wires are coming down, and the transport company is purchasing old, high-emission diesel buses in the interim. Meanwhile a new national government has been elected and, although this is really a regional government issue, people are wondering if the new government might use its influence (and money?) to find a more efficient solution.

Unknown said...

As a student in the late 60s I used to work on trolley buses like the one shown in the photo (double-deckers) in Bournemouth during my summer vacations. They were phased out shortly after because the resort town didn't like having the power-lines around the scenic town centre. Featured on many tourist photos while operating the turntable at the end of one of the routes. :-)