BYD Electric Buses and the Future of Green Transit

atc montrealThis past February, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) road-tested electric buses built by the Chinese company, Build Your Dreams (BYD). In March, they tried them out again, this time with passengers on select routes, mostly in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville sector in the north of the city. This followed similar tests in the Outaouais region near Ottawa in late 2013.

One of the main goals of these tests was to see how the buses performed in Canada’s winter climate. While we don’t have official word yet on how they went, all indications are that this was a success. This Montrealer, for example, seems pleased:

How it Works

When this gets to the fully approved and implemented stage, mechanic colleges will no doubt start teaching students interested in auto careers what to expect when servicing these high-tech vehicles. Well, for starters, the model proposed by BYD uses a non-toxic Iron-Phosphate battery that can keep the bus running for on average, 250 kilometers between charges. It takes five hours to fully charge a bus, and charged buses can also function as mobile generators. The only non-electric component of the recent test was the heating.

For the STM, the BYD tests were part of a larger effort to fully electrify its fleet by 2020. Future mechanic program graduates might want to take note that ultimately, they plan to combine battery use with overhead street electric wires that the bus can plug into.

Another Option: Flash-Charged Buses

For people who believe in the environmental benefits of electrified public transit, but don’t want to see wires on their streets – or have doubts about the effectiveness of pre-charged onboard batteries – there is another option. Engineers at Switzerland’s Trolleybus Optimisation Système Alimentation (TOSA) are developing a way to rapidly charge buses while en route.

They have equipped buses with battery packs on the roof and converted certain stops along the route into charging stations. The bus essentially docks and a robotic arm extends up from the battery and connects to the charging station. In 15 seconds, as passengers embark and disembark, the station provides the bus with enough electrical energy to make it to the next equipped stop.

There are some factors that haven’t been ironed out yet. For example, the TOSA team sees potential problems when a particular stop is shared by two or more bus routes. What if multiple buses arrive at the same time needing to charge?

Have a look at this project in action:

Are you looking forward to the full electrification of our bus system? Which green model do you see most cities adopting? Let us know in the comments.

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