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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Electric Buses Being Tested Around The World

A large, 60-foot electric bus has been running for almost two weeks in Sao Paulo, Brazil where it has transported over 135,000 passengers since hitting the road. The bus joined the city’s already diverse fleet, which includes buses running on biodiesel, ethanol, diesel and electric trolley buses. This is just the latest movement in an international effort to develop electric buses that are quiet, fuel-free, and reducing air and greenhouse gas pollution.

The batteries and recharge system in the Sao Paulo bus were made by Japan-based Mitsubishi while the body and motor were built in Brazil. The bus, which can hold 124 passengers and travel 125 miles without recharging, is winning over local approval for its quietness and international approval for being environmentally friendly. The battery-powered buses do not require cables, as is the basis for the electric trolleybuses that use the city’s grid.

“The bus is super-healthy for the planet and can do its job almost like diesel-fueled models, thanks to its recharge technology and use of energy,” Ivan Regina, manager of the Sao Paulo state government Transport Planning, Technological Development and Environment unit, told Efe.

For the next six months the city will be assessing the bus’s financial viability as compared to a standard, diesel-fueled buses. However, from a climate and environmental perspective, the battery-powered bus is a clear leader.

“The battery-powered bus has all the flexibility of diesel and does not emit greenhouse gases,” said Ivan Regina, the Planning and Projects manager for the EMTU. “It is a dream bus. If the economic requirements are met, society will be very pleased.”

Air pollution is a serious problem in Sao Paulo, and there are plans for the 70,000 or so buses in the state to be replaced with renewable energy-driven models by 2020. With the World Cup coming to Brazil this year, tourists will be descending on Sao Paulo, and it would be noteworthy for them to travel on new, cutting-edge electric buses.

Around the world, transit authorities are experimenting with similar ideas and ideals. In the U.K. buses that charge using underground induction coils positioned at the beginning and end of a route are being tested as part of a five-year trial program. In Vancouver, transit authorities have also been considering employing battery-powered electric buses, however they have found them to still be cost-prohibitive.

“We have certainly done some testing of pure battery buses (without trolley wires),” Coast Mountain Bus Company fleet manager Dave Leicester told 24 Hours Vancouver. “We think they’re promising, but they’re very expensive. It’s going to cost, probably, at least $1 million per bus.”

According to Leicester, diesel and compressed natural gas buses cost about half as much. However, GreenPower Motor Company, also based in Vancouver, is in the final stages of producing an all-electric city transit bus, the EV350, that it says will save transit bus operators between $50,000 – $100,000 a year compared to a traditional diesel bus, based on maintenance, operations and fuel.

“Until recently, battery technologies were not advanced enough to support the long routes and demands required of public transit,” GreenPower’s CEO Phillip Oldridge said in a recent statement. “Our first EV350 incorporates these advanced technologies with outstanding results.”

Upon completion of the bus, GreenPower Motor plans to take it on a North American tour to demonstrate for transit authorities as other major cities are also toying with the idea of all-electric buses. Los Angeles is currently testing an electric bus made by BYD Motors, an electric vehicle manufacturer based in Shenzhen, China. BYD is the largest rechargeable battery manufacturer in the world and the number one electric bus manufacturer in the world — and Warren Buffett, widely regarded for his investment savvy, owns ten percent of the company. BYD also recently unveiled a 60-foot, all-electricity transit bus, this one designed for use in Bogota, Columbia.

Mitsubishi is also working in Japan to test electric buses that employ the company’s MLiX lithium-ion batteries and will recharge using solar power and an advanced energy storage system.

“The buses –- full-size, low-floor models — will operate on high-performance “MLiX” lithium-ion rechargeable batteries,” says a statement from the company. “In combination with a lighter body enabled by the partial adoption of carbon fiber construction, the new buses will be able to operate continuously over dramatically increased distances, providing a quiet and comfortable ride to passengers with zero gas emissions.”

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