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Transportation Power

'Electric Buses Now Cheaper Than Their Diesel or CNG Counterpart, Could Dominate the Market Within 10 Years' (electrek.co) 382

An anonymous reader shares a report: Transit vehicles today are mostly powered by gasoline, diesel, and CNG, while batteries only represent about 1 percent of the market. It is currently a small part of the industry, but it's also the fastest growing fuel source in the sector and it's starting to become highly competitive. Electric bus maker Proterra is ramping up production and currently claims to be cheaper than diesel and CNG. It leads CEO Ryan Popple to make a bold prediction that battery-powered buses will dominate the transit bus market within 10 years. More specifically, he says that the majority of new bus sales will be electric by 2025 and all new bus sales to transit agencies will be electric by 2030. Proterra has so far only delivered a few hundred all-electric buses, but they have been announcing several major deals lately, like 73 buses from King County's Metro Transit, that seem to indicate there's a shift in the transit industry.

'Electric Buses Now Cheaper Than Their Diesel or CNG Counterpart, Could Dominate the Market Within 10 Years'

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  • Local Boy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by darkain ( 749283 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @11:45AM (#53873841) Homepage

    As a local boy, King County (Seattle, WA) makes sense for this. The downtown bus routes have overhead wiring. The city already has a vast network of electric buses running, so adding battery operated buses to transition on/off the connected wired network makes sense. They're probably one of the easiest metros to make such a transition.

    • Boston has overhead wiring and runs electric busses too... Only their "convertible" busses just switch to diesel power when the wires end.

    • Re:Local Boy (Score:4, Interesting)

      by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @01:35PM (#53874863)

      Yeah, King County Metro buying a bunch of electric busses doesn't "indicate there's a shift", since Metro has been running a significant number of electric busses for decades. With hydro power rather plentiful and relatively cheap, using electric vehicles around here makes sense.

      Sound Transit's Link light rail also runs on electricity, for that matter.

      On a side note - I always find it mildly amusing (and simultaneously annoying) when my Metro driver has to get out of the bus and deal with a broken electrical connection. Those overhead wired tracks don't seem to be the most reliable system in the world... but I suspect it's just because it's decades old design. Link certainly doesn't have any issues like that.

  • Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @11:48AM (#53873857) Homepage

    Of course electric busses are cheaper. So are electric taxis and other high mileage commercial vehicles. Busses are an even more obvious target for electrification because they are big enough to encompass large battery packs, follow predictable routes and timetables, tend to taxed heavily due to creating a lot of pollution, and cost a lot to start with so the extra for a battery pack is a lower proportion of the overall price.

    China is really leading the way here, on track for near 100% EV bus sales by 2020.

  • by DatbeDank ( 4580343 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @11:50AM (#53873875)

    I'm always dubious of claims like this. There's an XKCD out there conveying exactly why we shouldn't put much stock into this CEO.

    However, I will say that I am deeply impressed with the electric buses that run off of an overhead catenary wire. Cities should seriously look into electrifying heavily used bus routes. Easy way to save fuel cash and cut pollution down too.

    • Cities should seriously look into electrifying heavily used bus routes.

      Er ... no. "heavily used bus routes" tend to have several services along the same road. Sometimes a slow-filling bus on one service needs to be overtaken by another on a different service that does not need to be at the bus stop for so long. That is not possible if they are all trolley buses (overhead catenary buses as you refer to them).

      I remember trolley buses in London. They mostly ran on routes in suburbia in radial directions so they did not cross or share any road with each other. Where they share

  • Charge? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Luthair ( 847766 )
    I can't imagine the batteries can last all day, do they have swappable battery packs?
    • Re:Charge? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Jaime2 ( 824950 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @11:56AM (#53873933)
      No, but they have a bus-sized chassis to hang batteries under.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My local transit authority has a few electric buses and they use them on routes where they can last all day on a single charge. They are very happy with the buses, which they bought 2-3 years ago. However, most of their routes are too long to use electric buses. If the range can improve 15-20%, this opens up a lot of additional routes and they would buy more of them.

      The largest fleet of electric buses in my city is actually a private company, which runs a dozen or so on the daily rush hour routes between

    • by Idou ( 572394 )
      There are technologies that can charge a bus at rates from 400kW to 600kW [cleantechnica.com].

      Buses go through predictable routes, so you can put these chargers on the routes (or where routes intersect) and do 15 second charges every pass, if needed.
    • I can't imagine the batteries can last all day, do they have swappable battery packs?

      They could be swappable. However they also are big enough to have very large battery packs which should last a good long time presuming the power to weight ratio make sense. Also remember that electric does not necessarily mean battery powered. You can draw power from a tap like many light rail systems do and it's still electric.

    • Most buses do not do enough miles in a day to totally exhaust its battery. If they do, they do back to the depot or a charging station to recharge.
  • I have seen the mess of cables necessary to support electric trolleys in Seattle and elsewhere. With batteries, you could reduce the overhead wiring to straight streets and above bus stops,where it is cheap to install and power, allowing charging during normal operation. At stops, the bus stops for a while to take on and let off passengers, and buses have stops for a few minutes at the beginning and end of routs at terminals to allow the drivers to get up and use the facilities. All are good opportunities
  • Some buses run on batteries, but I've seen several systems now for buses that get power from overhead lines (similar to trains). The summary seems to be overlooking these vehicles.
    • by flink ( 18449 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @12:29PM (#53874267)

      Some buses run on batteries, but I've seen several systems now for buses that get power from overhead lines (similar to trains). The summary seems to be overlooking these vehicles.

      While overhead wires are fine for trains, which have predictable, smooth, well-maintained paths to travel, they are less than optimal for buses.

      We have these in Cambridge, MA. They are a hassle because it's a fairly common occurrence that the armature will pop off the overhead wire and the bus will grind to a halt until the driver can go around and use a pole to hook it back on, creating a huge traffic hazard in the meantime. It would be great if they had some battery backup and could limp along to a bus stop before having to be reconnected.

      Also, during power failures, every bus stops. This is great when two buses happen to be passing in opposite directions, causing the entire road to be blocked.

      • Also, during power failures, every bus stops. This is great when two buses happen to be passing in opposite directions, causing the entire road to be blocked.

        If this happens often enough to be even a remote source of concern for your city then the busses are the least of your problem.

  • Never forget the General Motors streetcar conspiracy [wikipedia.org]
    Don't let history repeat itself.
  • I wish the article had a little more analysis and technical detail. Anyone know what drives the competitiveness of electric buses vs other vehicles? What technology changes are changing this cost equation and how do they impact other vehicle markets?

    Why are buses more competitive but cars aren't?

    Is this about the ability to recapture energy when braking on electric vehicles? For buses used in cities stopping regularly, I could see this being a big deal.

    Do form factor differences allowing better engineeri

  • Electric busses may make a lot of sense in city traffic. How do the long "refuel" cycles impact fleet availability?

    "Fastest Growing" is a meaningless term without context...
  • Winter city testing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kernel Kurtz ( 182424 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @01:17PM (#53874711) Homepage

    Here in Winnipeg the city Transit service has been testing electric buses for a local coachbuilder for quite a few years with what I have heard to be good results.

    http://winnipegtransit.com/en/... [winnipegtransit.com]

    King County is also already a large customer for their hybrid diesel-electric buses.

    https://www.newflyer.com/buses... [newflyer.com]

    If they can work well here in our cold winters and hot summers they can probably work well in most places in North America.

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