By Stephanie Laubenstein and David Warren
The power requirements for an electric bus fleet can be astonishing. Averaging 175 miles daily per bus, the energy consumption for a 100-bus fleet at one location would approach 50 MWh. Charging the bus at 150 kWh over a 3-hour period would require a continuous peak power demand of 16 MW to charge all the buses simultaneously. This equates to the output of a small hydro power plant in the Northeast, or the size of 100 acres of solar field in the Southwest.
Implementing an optimal electric bus system involves matching a charging strategy to the bus design (battery capacity on-board) while avoiding excessive utility upgrades required for the power demand — the amount of electrical power that must be generated and delivered through the grid at any given time.
Transitioning to a successful electric transit bus system requires thoughtful planning and attention to optimize the existing utility power infrastructure with smart charging technology that curtails unnecessary capital and excessive operational costs.
A critical process to optimizing an electric bus system is establishing organized stakeholder roles and responsibilities. Stakeholders may include the transit agency bus operations and the facility department, the bus manufacturer, charger equipment supplier, civil and electrical engineering capable firms, construction contractors, and the utility power provider. For on-route charging, added stakeholders may include public works departments and local city planners and architect design committees.
It’s also critical that transit agencies plan for risk mitigation. Scope changes and unexpected variables that are unknown with ground breaking are inevitable. Risk planning should include: a governance structure that allows risks to be addressed in a timely and effective manner; ensuring all stakeholders have an executive sponsor — these individuals can help to overcome the unexpected events and contingency budgets that are planned and approved.
New Flyer of America Inc. approaches the partnership role for infrastructure from project management to technical guidance. These activities begin with site visits, route modeling to determine the range requirements and charging strategy, consulting with utility provider, installation of the charging equipment and test commissioning of the buses to the installed chargers. The Vehicle Innovation Center (VIC) in Anniston, AL, is New Flyer’s showcase for electric bus charging infrastructure. Visitors are able to interact with charging equipment and technology from industry partners including Siemens, ABB and ChargePoint. Interactive classroom learning sessions are based on active depot and on-route charger projects throughout North America. VIC visitors will become familiarized with the current state of industry charging standards that ensure the interoperability and the longevity of non-proprietary charging infrastructure for years to come.
New Flyer is uniquely qualified as a partner to provide the “Complete Solution”: The proven Xcelsior® platform; American-based lithium-ion battery technology; an established supply chain, parts and service organization; the highest gross vehicle weight rating and passenger capacity; infrastructure and charging system project management and the ability to connect telematics for real-time optimized performance and analytics.
In the early days of deploying electric propulsion, the challenge for electric buses was providing overhead lines through city streets to power trolley-electric buses. Today’s infrastructure requires similar consideration, except the challenge for supporting battery-electric buses lies in finding the right partners to assist in building infrastructure. In addition, that infrastructure must provide adequate power at the right location and the right time to charge a fleet of zero-emission battery-electric buses that will move your community forward.
Stephanie Laubenstein serves as director, sales and business development, and David Warren serves as director, sustainable transportation of New Flyer of America Inc.