As with all Electric Vehicles Manufactured today, there are a number of electric bus innovations out there and they still come with pluses and minuses.
There is a market for these electric buses. The Toronto Transit Commission is participating in a new pilot program aimed at reducing carbon emissions by using electric buses for public transit, and the city of Gothenburg ordered 145 electric buses from Volvo.
The TTC is still trying to weigh the cost of the new busses verses the cost of fuel and despite the huge purchase Gothenburg still has 65% of their fleet traditional diesel buses.
The idea of Zero City sounds appealing but there is a long way to go. Okay zero emissions is appealing but zero noise may be a worry if you are a pedestrian. As referenced in the video below, drivers have to honk to notify pedestrians of the bus’s approach.
A battery electric bus provides better acceleration than a diesel and can climb hills better than diesel vehicles, they also have less maintenance costs. Diesel vehicles are a contributor to air pollution.
They can only run for 100 miles generally before they need for recharging 4-5 hours. Plus the whole, silently running over pedestrians thing.
According to Reuters the running costs appear to be better than diesel, but as mentioned above only urban buses can run on electric power.
Longer Range E-Buses
An example of a bus which is more effective than the regular electric bus is the Proterra, a 40 foot bus which can drive up to 329 miles on full charge. They have been producing electric buses for more than 10 years and their sales copy says that it is designed “for the rough terrain of the US.”
Electric buses have a surprisingly long history; the first electric bus was operating in 1807 between Victoria and Liverpool Street stations, which is a 22 mile journey. So, running out of battery wasn’t that much of a problem there.
There seems to be various reports of a single bus to a single city, for example Gulfport, surely a token gesture. Electric buses shouldn’t be underestimated but why a single bus if they cost the same amount to run? One theory is that not all routes are compatible with the low range on an E-Bus.
A more eco-friendly idea is to make all school buses electric. It’s a positive change, but then why concentrate on school buses? Once again, it comes down to range limits. School busses generally have shorter routes.
The state of California is due to get half its electricity from “renewable resources” so it seems logical that they should have electric buses too. The increase in heavy duty E-Vs (electric buses and trucks) means more industry jobs in assembly, which given the need for more employment is surely a vital necessity? However, many argue that the new jobs are really just traditional bus makers moving to make E-Busses and don’t represent an expansion of employment.
As well as looking at the fuel, the Columbia company (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Transportation) reduced the height of the step, expanded the door space and made the entry ramp as flat as they could. They specialise in students commuting through the campuses of various US cities. This is a clever look outside the box at what can be done when the large diesel motor goes away.
Other Bus Controversies:
It’s no use talking about the type of fuel a bus uses if you don’t mention a key controversy around buses—ridership. Empty buses running around hoping someone gets on represent waste no matter what powers them.
The city of Luxembourg has created another innovation: It is one of the first cities it’s size to become fare-free. It is not known as yet if it is a lone wolf or other cities will join it. This should increase ridership, and any idea that can counter pollution is probably a good idea, but where exactly does the financing come from? It looks like we shall have to wait and see.
Are EV’s Truly Environmentally Sound?
One of the more stylish e-buses is arguably the eCitaro G which runs on solid state batteries. Although they currently contain cobalt there are plans to phase this out, again for the sake of the environment.
The process of extracting the materials to make batteries and the lack of a good way to recycle or dispose of worn-out batteries poses a serious threat to the soundness of any EV including E-Buses. At least E-Buses don’t require a massive infrastructure build to put powering stations everywhere there is fuel stations currently.
Additionally, renewable energy is an odd term. Technically dams run on water that’s renewable in places it rains, yet environmentalists aren’t happy about dams. Windmills kill birds, create noise pollution, cost more to produce electricity, require acres of land compared to other forms of generation and tend to wear out before they produce the amount of energy it took to make them.
However, environmentalist scientist’s express faith that these problems will one day have an answer. Faith…doesn’t sound like science. Only time (and billions of tax dollars) will tell the fate of E-Buses.