The 26,000lb bus represents a departure for the electric vehicle market, which has traditionally focused on smaller vehicles. The Tesla Roadster, for example, is a two-seater. The Mitsubishi i MiEV and the Smart ED are sub-compacts, while the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Ford Focus range from compact to mid-size. Moreover, most of the vehicles' batteries are either air- or liquid-cooled.
While most auto companies are searching for ways to boost range to 150 miles and beyond, Smith isn't worried about it.
The Newton eTrans electrification system employs a permanent magnet motor rated at 150kW of peak power. (Source: Smith Electric Vehicles)
"Our customers have very dedicated routes," Hansel said. "They know their exact distances, and we size the batteries for the applications." He added that an electric school bus could also be recharged during the day, when the buses aren't in use, as well as at night.
Cost of the buses is expected to be considerably higher than the cost of diesel-based buses, but exact figures are not yet available, as production isn't expected to begin until the second quarter of 2012.
Smith, which specializes in electrification of medium-duty trucks (such as delivery trucks), expects to eventually build a bigger bus with a gross weight of 33,000lb. That bus could hold between 65 and 70 passengers.
"There are always going to be electrification applications that fit nicely in the 100-mile duty cycle," Hansel said. "School buses are one of those applications."
For a close-up look at GM's Chevy Volt, go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director, Brian Fuller. In the trip sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is taking the fire-engine-red Volt to innovation hubs across America, interviewing engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students as he blogs his way across the country.
It seems to me that the electric bus would also be an excellent place to put solar panels (on the roof). You should be able to get at least 90 watts of panels on the roof to charge the battery with during daylight hours. Even if you lay them flat, could extend the range of the bus by several miles. Just a thought.
Innovation must understand the need and should not try to embed the soultion in it. I think this project has really understood the need. There are always going to be electrification applications that fit nicely in the 100-mile duty cycle," Hansel said. "School buses are one of those applications." This proves that. Good work
Aside from the additional loads on the grid there is a huge problem with electric school bus use, at least in my city, which is that nobody will be able to service them. That will probably mean also that there will be a union electrician required to plug them in for recharging every evening. So the reduced cost of powering the buses will be offset by the much increased costs of every other aspect of owning them. One more question is how would these buses be heated? Electric heat is a poor choice for any application at any time, and fueled heaters would sort of reduce the environmental savings a bit. About the only problem that they would solve would be the range problem.
School bus range is the least of many school boards' problems these days. Because of falling tax revenues, how far their money will go is. Investing in electric buses is committing to a very long payback. The article says such buses will cost "considerably more" than diesel-fueled buses. This is exactly what will be looked at when it comes to replacing fleets. When school districts by the hundreds are cutting back on essentials such as teachers and upgraded textbooks, going green will not be on their agenda. Sorry. As much as this is to be desired, this isn't the time it will happen in many areas. It will be a matter of the haves and have nots. Those schools who have the revenue will get; those who do not will have to make do with what they got.
bdcst, you raise good points about the viability of this tchnology in rural communities. Here's another potential problem: Some rural communities have multiple children who live as many as ten miles from the school. If you add up the mileage for all the morning pick-ups, and then realize that the bus has to be recharged for all the afternoon drop-offs, the range may not be enough.
Electric companies will be anxious to get their power grid loaded and used over night. It would be great if the electric companies could control the time and sequence of overnight charging to help even out grid load. There's an over abundance of electricity available on the grid, starting at about 10:00 at night and ending around 7:00 in the morning.
The comment about a 13 ton school bus needing less surge to get started than a small electric car is taxing my intelligence. A shcool bus driver presses the pedal as hard if not harder than a car driver to get started. Its battery may be larger, but it's still one heck of a load to get going, especially when you've got 40 passengers on board.
These busses sound good, however they only make any sense in dense city environments where other electric transportation (communter trains, etc.) are already there or would be less expensive to setup and install.
These EVs place a huge (more than several houses) load on the electric grid when they re-charge (if they are to be re-charged in one 'night'). Has anyone looked at the tremendous strain a couple of hundred of these would put on electric infrastructure
Refueling a conventional bus takes an hour. Refueling an EV of this size takes all night and the batteries may require cooling if it is to be recharged in one 'shift'.
@bdcst: Your point about the range issue for rural communities is real. I think the key takeaway with that very real reminder is that even with the very benefits the EV buses can deliver, they (and alternative vehicle technology in general) is not a use case for every situation. Rural communities have different circumstances to deal with than an urban school system. Therefore, the backup plans and equipment they'd have to put in place to support a transition to an EV bus fleet would shoot the ROI right in the foot, hence not a sound use case. That said, I do think this has great potential and just because it isn't a fit for some doesn't mean it wouldn't be great to see pockets of adoption out there.
Good point, Bdcst. Those would be relatively infrequent events, but they do happen inevitably. So instead of just snow days, the school system would have to allow for power-out-last-night days. I have two kids who live in separate rural areas, and power outages due to storms are much more frequent in rural areas than they are in the city.
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