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South Korea Launches First Electric Bus Fleet 168

Posted by samzenpus
from the whole-lot-of-batteries dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Seoul Metropolitan Government just rolled out the world's first commercial all-electric bus service. The buses were designed to be as efficient as possible — each bus can run up to about 52 miles on a single charge and they have a maximum speed of about 62 miles per hour. The vehicles' lithium-ion battery packs can be fully charged in less than 30 minutes and they also feature regenerative braking systems that reuse energy from brakes when running downhill."
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South Korea Launches First Electric Bus Fleet

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    "South Korea Launches First" and expected the rest of it to be "Strike Against North Korea".
    • by corsec67 (627446)

      Or South Korea was flinging Electric Buses at North Korea...

      • by Culture20 (968837)

        Or South Korea was flinging Electric Buses at North Korea...

        I can see North Korea building Trebuchets to do that after the leaders view the latest in US war tech on Youtube.

  • Seoul (Score:5, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:09PM (#34705412) Homepage Journal

    Its hilly and congested. Many major roads are pretty much gridlocked. Urban speeds are quite slow. Many roads are steep. Motors which don't use energy when stopped are a great idea. Regenerative braking is also worth while.

  • by MaestroRC (190789) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:12PM (#34705440) Homepage

    Chattanooga has had electric bus service for years - http://www.carta-bus.org/routes/elec_shuttle.asp [carta-bus.org]. Granted, these are "shuttles" and not full on bus service, as they are used for short routes in the downtown area.

    I feel like they should get credit where due, however.

  • Please don't (Score:1, Redundant)

    start a headline with the words "______ Korea Launches" unless it's missiles. My heart skipped a beat there.
  • This is certainly not the first electric bus service, but the first full battery operated bus service.

    For bus service, how come you think battery is better to the environment than cable?

    Every people is smart, collectively STUPID

    • by istartedi (132515)

      My thought too. A lot of places have (and many more had) electric "buses" except they were on tracks with overhead wires. Having a trolley with rubber wheels, and a battery for short-gaps where you haven't built out the overhead wires (or don't want them for aesthetic reasons) makes sense. I heard about a bus like that somewhere in Europe that used flywheel energy storage to traverse a roughly 2km gap between overhead wires. Sorry I don't recall the details on that; but IIRC it was being done more than

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:30PM (#34705612)

      Because running wires everywhere costs a lot more than putting some batteries on the buses?

      I am going to bet those Korean engineers thought about this just a little more than you.

    • by BBTaeKwonDo (1540945) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:33PM (#34705646)
      1. You don't have to install cable before starting the service.
      2. You don't have to install cable every time you want to want to add a new a bus route. This means the routes can change more frequently, or a destination which might not merit a regular route (sports stadium, e.g.) can get bus service only when needed.
      3. No cables means no cable maintenance and no cable theft (theft may not be a problem in Korea, but can be a big problem in some countries).

      Cables have their advantages, and a city with cables in place would probably do better to keep them. I would think most places would be better off starting an electric bus system from scratch without cables.

      • Frequent changes to routes is a bug, not a feature, where I come from. Makes the whole damn system unpredictable if you're trying to get somewhere you don't go on a regular basis, because the route you took the last time won't get you there anymore.

        - RG>

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No cables means no cable maintenance and no cable theft
        In some of those countries they had this great idea and put the cables under voltage to avoid the theft.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      Seattle has had trolleybuses for as long as I can remember. Until Metro started replacing them with hybrids they were the only ones that were allowed to operate in our transit tunnel. That included hybrids where they were able to completely switch between gas and electric, but as far as I can tell couldn't operate like the newer ones. They work well, however they aren't without their disadvantages.

      For one thing they can't make 90 degree turns. Any time the driver needs to make a 90 degree turn he has to
      • by CdBee (742846)
        " Any time the driver needs to make a 90 degree turn he has to get out of the bus and manually switch lines. Any time the driver needs to make a 90 degree turn he has to get out of the bus and manually switch lines."

        it should be trivial to equip the trolley poles with servo motors and optical sensors so they drop as the bus pulls away from the wires and raise again when they are under another set of wires. With accurate enough sensors and actuators this could be done at cruise speed
    • Ever been to San Francisco? The overhead wires are the second ugliest thing in the city. Plus, there are places on the routes where drivers have to get out and adjust the wires as they're switching to a different pair. Batteries aren't a panacea, but neither are overhead wires.
      • by CdBee (742846)
        Thats just bad design or outdated equipment (newsflash - trolleybuses last 50 years as unlike a diesel bus they dont shake themselves to pieces). It would be technically trivial to have the trolleypoles auto align themselves and even switch wires while moving.
  • They were not battery powered, but they were busses and they were electric.

  • Sorry, but electric buses [wikipedia.org] have existed for decades.

    The title should read "battery powered buses" instead, but thet's not a great advantage for a bus. A vehicle that always runs through the same route is very easily powered by cables strung along the road.

    • by inanet (1033718)

      not even first at that by the looks of things.

    • Re:Trolley bus (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @09:19PM (#34705974)

      The title should read "battery powered buses" instead, but thet's not a great advantage for a bus. A vehicle that always runs through the same route is very easily powered by cables strung along the road.

      We have many of those here in Seattle, and those overhead lines are _BEYOND UGLY_.

    • I was gonna say, we had a trolley bus system in Edmonton in operation between 1939 and 2009. A closure that was thoroughly opposed by Edmontonians.

  • by inanet (1033718) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:20PM (#34705504)

    Over here in Wellington New Zealand we have had all electric buses for a really long time, since 1949 in fact.

    they aren't 100% always battery powered, but nobody said they had to be. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolleybuses_in_Wellington [wikipedia.org]

    we have the dedicated trolly bus fleet, that can switch to running on batteries when there is no power, then back to overhead lines when power is restored,

    from what I can see this achieves all the positives of the Korean system and none of the negatives (return times, charge times etc) as they are full time
    electric but only require the battery power as a backup.

    (ok the lines might be a bit unsightly to some, but my point remains)

    so this might be the first electric bus system that requires no on the go charging, but is that necessarily a good thing? they still have to plug in sometime.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      What is the cost to install and maintain all those lines? Is it even possible in Seoul?

      Seems like in some places the wire overhead solution would not be ideal.

      • it is more about making a real world test of the current capabilities of what south korean companies can do so they can offer the buses to other customers. Doing this they amortize the R&D and will be able to sell at a better price than competitors. Overhead wire is dirt cheap and low maintenance; hell, even in my city here in Mexico we had several mayor routes of trolley buses, two of them were replaced by 2 lines of light rail in the 80's and early 90's, two lines are still in service an the 3-6 other

    • from what I can see this achieves all the positives of the Korean system and none of the negatives (return times, charge times etc) as they are full time electric but only require the battery power as a backup.

      They do have some negative of their own however - like maintenance of the lines and supporting infrastructure. (Not to mention it's high capital cost.)

    • by gringer (252588)

      we have the dedicated trolly bus fleet, that can switch to running on batteries when there is no power, then back to overhead lines when power is restored

      They did this when they were (up/down)grading manners street, with dedicated "pole-removers" waiting to detach buses from the wires before going past the inner city malls, then another group of workers on the other side of the malls.

      I wonder if it'd be possible to automate that (i.e. computerised pole-retractors and re-attachers), which would allow the possibility for buses to transfer between charging/powered and unpowered regions of their bus route. That could make the trolley buses useful on more routes,

    • by sam0737 (648914)

      Here in Beijing has a lot of trolley bus too. But they have to slow down to 10mph when crossing cable intersection or a switch, and most of them are in the road intersection...which blocks all the traffic behind.

      Plus, you can't have too many bus running on the street, because apparently they can't overtake each other! Imagine in busy road section where there are 4 lanes filled with vehicles and 1.5 lanes of traffic are buses.

      And I also wonder if it will interfere with double decker operation.

      Lastly, I don't

  • Koreans slightly beaten to it by The London Electrobus Company founded in 1906 which ran for a couple of years. Well that's what Wikipedia says so it must be true!
  • Did they have to wait until they had a whole fleet of them built before they could launch the service? How long does it take to build one of these things anyway?
    • I bet the S Koreans have a production line which could churn out a bus per day. These guys think large scale. They built a whole new island for Incheon airport. And its not just the airport on the island. Its got its own city and transit system.

  • If the bus is in sun for most of its service day, then the extra kWh from roof mounted solar panels would help it run the HVAC and get a bit more range.

    • by spage (73271)

      That seems expensive and largely symbolic. On city routes surrounded by high-rise buildings the average insolation on the panel will be terrible, and there are better ways to spend the $thousands it will cost to generate a negligible amount of power for only an intermittent few hours a day. The reason the Prius and Fisker Karma have solar roof options is so the AC can keep the car cool while parked without draining the battery, but a bus is constantly on the move. You'd still have to size the buses' batte

  • by sien (35268) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @09:29PM (#34706042) Homepage

    This is far from the first electric bus setup.

    Around 100 years ago [economist.com] something similar was tried in London. The service collapsed in 1909.

    With a bus fleet BTW you can do as they did 100 years ago and just swap out battery packs alleviating the need for long recharging times.

  • and then started breathing when they saw the words First Electric Bus Fleet

    Green Busses Good

    Missiles BAD

  • Two long, springy polls on the top of each bus connect to a network of bare power lines stretched across the streets.
  • The government rolls out a commercial bus... that doesn't make sense, unless the South Korean government is actually a private company.
  • Instead, these should be loaded with ultracaps that can go about 10 miles (or at least 2x the longest distance between 2 stops) or so AND handle the HVAC. Then at each stop, there is a charging station that quickly fills the bus. With an ultra-cap, you have the ability to charge as quickly as you want (as in seconds, not minutes).
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Oh good, let's replace the expensive lithium batteries with even more expensive ultracaps, and then utilize a charging system which is pretty much going to have to have ultracaps in it too in order to deliver them power in a timely fashion so that people can steal them. This is a fantastic idea, and I can't imagine why they didn't use it.

      • How much money in lithium batteries are required to run 50 miles AND have HVAC vs. how much money in ultra-caps to run typically less than several miles and run HVAC? And there is NO reason to have ultra-caps at the site. Generally any place that runs a bus only 52 miles a day will have loads of stops along the way and it will certainly have loads of high wattage lines.

        And I just googled for this. Lo and behold it is already being done. In China. [technologyreview.com] For the last several year (along with li-ion battery buse
  • by JSBiff (87824) on Thursday December 30, 2010 @02:23AM (#34707790) Journal

    Probably a lot of you know this, but for the benefit of those who don't, S. Korea is currently pursuing an aggressive build-out of new nuclear reactors. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration [doe.gov] S. Korea already gets 34% of its power from nuclear, and plans to be generating 50% from nuclear by 2022 (and will likely keep pushing that percentage up to the 60-80% range longer term).

    If the electricity to charge the batteries in the buses comes from nuclear, it should be very low-carbon emissions, low air pollution energy. The South Koreans are also building nuclear at something like 1/2 the cost of equivalent nuclear plants constructed in the U.S., so it should be pretty cheap energy too.

    S. Korea is even starting to get into the business of exporting nuclear power plants to other countries - they recently inked a deal with the United Arab Emirates to build four 1.4 GW plants in UAE for a total of $20Bn(USD).

  • My concern with this is that the solution limits you to certain routes. You could not have this operate on a rural bus route. Asking passengers to wait 30 minutes while the bus is recharged would be a bit ridiculous.

    I don't understand why they didn't have an interchangeable battery pack. This would have allowed the bus to quickly swap out the exhausted pack and replace it with a new one and you could put the swapping stations at strategic points around the city/rural area.

    I think it's one to watch, but unti

    • by horza (87255)

      This doesn't make any sense. It is a fleet of buses designed for a city. It would be a bit dumb to buy buses that cannot manage their basic routes. If you want to have a bus every 15 mins, then you just assign 2 buses per route. They can recharge at each terminus. An interchangeable battery pack is pointless.

      With a large percentage of the worlds population, and where the pollution is largely concentrated causing large scale medical problems, in the cities it's not "one to watch" but a perfectly valid soluti

      • by awjr (1248008)

        What I was getting at is that this type of scheme will get other countries looking at the solution and if that solution can be used within their city/town.

        With a diesel bus having a range of 300 miles, timetables and the number of buses used, and the ability to interchange them quickly between routes, it will have taken years to bed the time tables in.

        With the above system you are adding a 2.5 hour downtime per day to each bus. This is quite a complicated thing to factor in.

        The reality is, that this type of

  • 50-60 years ago there were electric milk delivery vans, there have been electric trains and buses for over a century, just because it's battery powered doesn't make it exciting.

  • Many cities, including mine, have had electric buses for decades:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7605380@N08/838292900/sizes/z/in/photostream/ [flickr.com]

    In fact, I'm going to ride on one in about an hour...
  • I dug this up on PopSci - http://www.popsci.com/cars/article/2010-03/koreas-online-electric-vehicle-gathers-power-road-wirelessly [popsci.com]

    Implementing this via the bus system, to prove the tech, then rolling into other building projects.
    Step 1. Induction Road beds
    Step 2. City bus systems runs on electro buses
    Step 3. modify Hybrid cars to run on induction Step 4. Interstate highways are rebuilt to with the technology - reducing oil reliance, and pollution. Smug may become a problem tho.
  • In another slashdot discussion about a year ago, someone linked to a company called Doty Energy. They claim to have a process which can efficiently take electricity, and generate gasoline and diesel from water and waste CO2 (I think the idea is sort-of like reverse-combustion - when hydrocarbon fuels burn cleanly, the products of combustion are energy, water, CO and CO2, so theoretically, it should be possible to 'reverse' the reaction with input energy, water, and CO2 and produce synthetic gas/diesel).

    I do

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