Electric bus

I was doing some browsing on the internet to look at bus and transit technologies. This is dangerous for me, as with little knowledge I can be easily mislead. But I did see a few things that interested me, and so I am sharing them here.

Shanghai fast charge electric bus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3rg-SsPJuU.  The bus charges at bus stops, when picking up passengers. A pantograph-like device rises from the roof to connect to charged overhead rods. The bus needs ten minutes to fully charge its batteries, which can be spread over several stops. In theory, the bus could run all day without leaving service, as long as it got ten minutes of dwell time at stops before it’s batteries ran down. Note the bus driver in the clip did not stop for the last, running passenger.

Similar, is the Eco ride in California: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkSXmrEUPGc&feature=related but the pantograph comes DOWN from the stop, meaning the roof of the bus is smooth, with just two recharging rails slightly raised from the roof. North American innovation is not dead.

At the city of Ottawa’s demo day a year or two ago, several LRT equipment manufacturers demonstrated their wares. One vendor had a LRT setup that could run powered by overhead wires in some zones, then go for several miles (eg, through the downtown, or along the western parkway) without wires but using its batteries. Then it would charge again at the station. This also meant the system could be expanded outwards first by laying track and only later installing expensive overhead wires. It would make extending the LRT service from Lincoln Fields to Baseline/College Station feasible sooner, or make it economic to jump the greenbelt to Orleans, Barrhaven, or Kanata. They have systems up and running elsewhere. Obvious drawback is that the vehicle has to carry around the weight of the batteries all day, even when on wire-power.

In Seoul, Korea, there is an operating electric bus service on a mountainous, park-like route. The hills must be challenging to the electric bus, which seems to have its batteries mounted on the roof (which makes sense since the electric motors are usually near the wheels and there is no drive-train from an “engine compartment”). This is a pretty conventional application of Li batteries to a bus, and charging is a time waster, according the driver dressed in a typical OC Transpo uniform of suit, tie, and white gloves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWrhQifMuSc&NR=1&feature=fvwp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVteo4jk5Ds&feature=related shows Shanghai expo buses, wherein the driver didn’t bother to stop close to the curb. Surprisingly noisy bus. And here are some interior shots, equally noisy; and the bus manages to stop not at the platform location but for pax between the security fence and road surface. It shows Ottawa pax are not the unruly bunch we sometimes think we are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jq3IPnoXlO8&NR=1 These Shanghai clips clearly show that world fairs still produce lots of weird-shaped buildings.

Here are some more interior shots of the Sunwin bus, a joint venture of China and Volvo. I especially like the bus drivers wearing white gloves (symbolize clean service) but the driver also is sitting on a plastic wrapped driver’s seat, so as to not get it dirty. Mind, I’m so old I remember when OC drivers used to have broom (non-electric powered cleaning device) on each bus and they would activate the device to sweep the bus out at the end of each route, so the bus wasn’t six feet deep in newspapers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52-HwZIOuaM&NR=1. Old-fashioned drivers also wore peaked hats (not baseball hats) which served to establish more authority. I wonder if the casual driver attire of today contributes to the demeanor of pax?

This isn’t a comprehensive look at bus and transit technologies, and I am not passing an opinion on whether they are (yet) practicable here or elsewhere. I seem to remember Expo 67 in Montreal had a number of nifty people mover systems that did not survive the fair. But, for a an hour on a rainy day, viewing new technologies was edutaining.

For those whom the world is always black or white, and never shades of Gray, these new technologies will make a great club to assail our current LRT scheme.

3 thoughts on “Electric bus

  1. Having visited Nice, France, which has an LRT that can go off the catenary, and working at Transport Canada, I can tell you that Lincoln Fields to Blair Station would not likely be doable without overhead wire, or significantly large batteries. Short distances are possible, but the longer the distance, the greater the battery size and cost, etc. at the end of the day, electrification is not as big an expense (maybe $250k/km, I would guess) than laying track and acquiring LRTs.

    1. Electrification is a lot bigger an expense than you are guessing. Numbers are available from some of the documentation the City released in April 2008. It pegs electrification at over $3.5M/km. Tracks come in at about $2.5M/km. Tracks are relatively easy to lay – electrification requires building a footing for a pole every 25 m. In places like the Scott Street trench we might be able to get away with just suspending the wires from anchor bolts in the rock walls, but elsewhere we’re going to need those poles.

  2. Erinn: the non-overhead-wire suggestion is for the highly sensitive areas (eg mainstreets, culturally significant parkways, etc) not for the entire Lincoln Fields to Blair. Most of the route would be wired. Its appeal lies in the ability to do short distances or new extensions without the appearance/expense of wire.

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