The road to all-electric
More than a decade ago, our military-focused company expanded our technology portfolio to include hybrid-electric transit buses. Today, the Power & Propulsion Solutions (PPS) business area has more than 7,000 of these systems operating across the globe, and last year we introduced our first all-electric bus systems into the North American and European markets.
Business Development Director, Ian Wilson admitted, “The adoption of hybrid-electric technology was slow primarily due to the higher bus purchase price as compared to a conventional diesel bus.” But he noted, “Over the last five years we have seen a greater demand to lower emissions and clean up our city streets using alternative technologies, including hybrid-electric, compressed natural gas, and now more than ever before, fully-electric buses.”
Our business recognizes this trend and is offering various levels of electrification for buses and vehicles. We offer series hybrid-electric systems, electric-range hybrids capable of driving 35 percent of the time with its engine-off, fuel-cell electric systems, electric accessories for conventional buses, and now full battery-electric buses.
Advanced Applications Director Bob Devine says he is seeing a big push for electric buses but notes, “Larger transit operators are purchasing only a sampling of electric buses to test out their capabilities and limitations, to begin training staff on the new technology, and determine how their business may need to adapt to this new technology.”
North American Sales Director Tom Webb agreed but noted, “As battery technology evolves, becoming smaller and lighter without impacting bus occupancy numbers, transit operators will be ready to make the transition to all-electric vehicles.” Webb added, “The transit agency operators are anxious to get rid of diesel engines due to the cost and the maintenance of them.”
It’s important to note that each transit operator is different, and the PPS’ strategy team believes there will be a need for hybrid-electric technology for more than a couple decades and for those exploring the technology today we have fully-electric systems available.
Last October, Central Contra Costa Transit Agency (CCCTA) which serves the Walnut Creek, California community held a ribbon-cutting event to introduce four BAE Systems’ fully-electric powered vehicles to the community.
Partnered with North American bus manufacturer, Gillig, we developed an electric system to shuttle passengers between the downtown area and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station. The system included a wireless charging system at the BART station to charge the buses’ batteries during layovers, while passengers disembark and board. The bus then travels back to the downtown area, completing a full route loop. At night, the bus travels approximately nine miles back to the depot where it can be plugged in and fully charged overnight to be ready for the next day. Early next year, CCCTA will put four more of our systems into service and Gillig is seeing increased interest for electric systems from their customer base.
To further demonstrate our fully-electric capability, PPS developed two battery-electric systems for trials in Paris, with the bus manufacturer Iveco. Business Development Manager Mat Lawrence explains, “In this trial, our systems are being compared to other electric bus systems and suppliers—each supplier is measured against the same set of criteria, and our fully electric propulsion system has consistently been a leading performer!”
We’re proud to say, four more vehicles powered by our electric propulsion system are due to enter service in France later this year to continue strengthening our position in the electric market.
By Carol Gorenflo, Communications, Endicott, New York