Hybrids get energized

New players and robust alliances shape the future

The DesignLine EcoSaver IV is now in service

DesignLine USA, Charlotte, NC, announced in June the first of 21 hybrid-electric transit buses are headed to the City of Baltimore, while New York City is completing its testing and evaluation and is about to take delivery on its first of 90 DesignLine vehicles.

The company began building buses in 1985 in New Zealand and in 2006 moved its global headquarters to Charlotte, where it opened a manufacturing facility last year.

DesignLine calls its EcoSaver IV a true Electric Hybrid Vehicle (HEV) in which electricity powers the propulsion of the HEV and all onboard systems, and does not switch between electrical and fuel-powered engines.

The onboard Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) is not a drive motor, but rather a 40hp turbine generator that provides up to 30 kW of electrical energy to the batteries. The regenerative braking acts as a second energy-generating source, tapping electrical energy generated by coasting and braking, and routing it to the DC voltage link to propel the bus, charge the batteries and run all onboard systems.

DesignLine says its proprietary hybrid propulsion system can operate in zero-emission mode on battery power up to 40 percent of the time, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions up to 70 percent. According to the company, the system reduces fuel consumption up to 40 percent, and contributes to a ride that is at least 35 percent quieter than typical city buses.

Design product engineer Dan McCarries says the system is capable of operating on a variety of fuel sources such as diesel, biodiesel, CNG, LNG, kerosene and aviation fuel, and the company is researching the future use of hydrogen fuel cell propulsion.

“The EcoSaver IV is designed for high-density urban traffic, as well as longer commuter runs and connector-type services,” says McCarries. “The all-electric version will utilize the plug-in technologies to draw electricity from the public grid to recharge the battery packs.”

The company is currently awaiting word from the Department of Energy on its applications for two federal grants that encourage the use of hybrid and electric buses and the development of green technologies.One under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 would provide 50 percent matching funds to public and private agencies to purchase up to 286 buses. The grant would require DesignLine to hire 150 new employees this year and up to 300 over the life of the grant.

As DesignLine specs the lithium-ion batteries to its proprietary architecture, the other grant would provide funding for the company to ramp up U.S. production of the large batteries that are a critical component of its hybrid buses. McCarries says if all goes according to plan, the DesignLine partners that produce the batteries may soon be setting up shop at the U.S. production facility.

ISE Corporation, San Diego, CA, recently formed two robust strategic alliances with well-known faces in hybrid power circles. The company has embarked on a new venture with its ally Maxwell Technologies to develop and market high-voltage ultracapacitor-based energy storage for fuel-efficient, low-emission, hybrid buses. ISE designs and manufactures hybrid propulsion systems and components for heavy-duty vehicles, while Maxwell Technologies designs and builds energy storage products.

Their newest strategic alliance actually stands on the shoulders of a business relationship that began in 2002, when Maxwell began supplying BOOSTCAP® ultracapacitors to ISE for braking energy recapture and torque assist in ISE hybrid drive systems for heavy-duty vehicles.

In the new arrangement, the two companies say they plan to collaborate in the development and implementation of robust, high-performance energy storage solutions for the heavy-duty transportation market.

ISE will source ultracapacitor cells exclusively from Maxwell Technologies, which will source and market certain ISE high-voltage and high performance ultracapacitor modules through its sales and distribution channels.

“We are thrilled to expand our collaboration with Maxwell,” says Rick Sander, ISE president and CEO. “Our combined resources and complementary products, along with ISE’s hybrid energy storage system expertise will position us to compete for a growing share of the rapidly expanding global market for heavy-duty vehicle drive systems.”

ISE and ZF Friedrichshafen unite to serve North America
ISE Corporation also recently joined in a strategic alliance with ZF Friedrichshafen (ZF), a manufacturer of vehicle driveline and chassis technology, to develop and supply a complete line of parallel-electric hybrid drive systems and components for the North American vehicle markets. These companies say their combined expertise will result in an unrivaled product portfolio of both series and parallel hybrid-electric drive systems and components.

ZF says it intends to utilize ISE expertise for its integration engineering, sales, subsystem assembly, and service support for ZF Hybrid Systems and Components in the North America commercial vehicle market. In turn, ISE will develop and market an ISE-branded parallel hybrid drive system for the North America commercial vehicle market that incorporates ZF Hybrid Systems and Components.

ZF has developed several parallel-hybrid configurations for various applications for the transit bus and truck industries. This agreement allows its sales of ZF Hybrid Systems and Components North American to go through ISE, with both companies sharing in the marketing effort.

“This relationship with ISE breaks new ground,” says ZF Friedrichshafen senior vice president, bus driveline technology.

“Our worldwide expertise in parallel hybrid drive systems combined with ISE’s expertise in series hybrid drive systems and high performance energy storage systems will provide the broadest and most capable product range to meet all commercial vehicle applications.”

ZF, one of the top 10 automotive industry suppliers worldwide, employs a workforce of 63,000 operating in 125 plants in 26 countries.

“The synergies coming from our new relationship with ZF will help accelerate and expand the worldwide adoption of commercial hybrid drive systems,” says ISE president and CEO, Rick Sander. “It should result in substantial environmental and sustainability improvements, along with improved business solutions.”

ISE Corporation has staked its claim in the area of electric series hybrid drive systems demonstrating its innovation and production capabilities in both the transit bus and commercial truck markets. The range takes in gasoline hybrid, fuel cell hybrid, diesel hybrid and battery dominant drive systems, as well as energy storage systems that including lithium-ion battery based systems for high energy density requirements for battery-dominant commercial electric vehicles, and ultracapacitor based systems that optimize high-power regenerative braking. BR