Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Quick charging electric buses (and streetcars) is a lot more complicated than I realized

Winnipeg Transit bus by New Flyer, outfitted with electric batteries.  Image from New Flyer.

The current issue of Mass Transit has an article, "The Power of Change," about planning for the development of an electric bus infrastructure, in particular the requirements for charging batteries.

While places tout the possibility of having quick charging systems for buses en route, even DC ("Proterra or another electric bus could replace the DC Circulator fleet," Washington Post), I've been skeptical, unless you buy extra buses, because you have to build in time for longer layovers for the charge.

But it turns out that the powering infrastructure is pretty significant, so that of the Winnipeg Transit system avers that it's unlikely you can have charging stations in residential areas, because it would require the provision of higher capacity transmission lines. From the article:
The consortium came up with its first electric bus prototype in 2012 after just two years of work fitting the electric motor onto a New Flyer bus. After further development and planning, the consortium eventually took the concept into service when Winnipeg Transit launched the buses along a 40 kilometer route in November, running from Winnipeg Richardson International Airport into the downtown area of the city.

“The charging aspect took longer. We really didn’t have a mature charging system until the summer of 2014,” said Dale Friesen, manager of the industrial and commercial solutions division of Manitoba Hydro. “The reasoning behind that was simple. We were attempting to do something that hasn’t been done very often. We were trying to build a very high capacity rapid charging system used in route and installed curbside and we initially told people we wanted a 300-500 Kwh charging system, so we got a lot of very blank stares.”

One big issue in developing a charging system Friesen said was there really are no such standards, so developing a system means working from the ground up while also determining the type of system you’re going with — bigger batteries with less room for passengers, or smaller batteries with faster in route charging. ...

Due to the load put on the grid from charging, Friesen said it’s important the transit authority and power authority determine the charging strategy because if lots of buses are charging at the same time it will add to demand on the system.
Plus the charging equipment used in Winnipeg for layover/en route charging is pretty big--8 feet wide, 8 feet high, and 4 feet deep--according to the article.  (Note that the charging infrastructure developed by Siemens pictured at right and below is significantly less massive.)

Charging takes 4 to 10 minutes depending on how fast the charge is, but the faster the charge, the greater amount of heat, and the amount of draw--which is equivalent to a medium sized office building.

While the effort in Manitoba involves New Flyer, the Province, Winnipeg Transit system, and the utility company, elsewhere, Volvo and Siemens have come together to provide integrated bus and charging systems.  Volvo provides the buses, Siemens the charging equipment.

They are testing the system in Hamburg, where the Siemens charging station is visible in these photographs ("Volvo signs Siemens deal," Bus and Coach Buyer).

Note for the past 5+ years, I've no longer been enamored with underground powering systems for streetcars and light rail, after earlier thinking that the Alstom system could be used in the US.  (They won't sell it outside of Europe.)

I think that the importance of sustainable transportation systems justifies the use of wire-based electrical systems, even if they are less attractive.  Wires become an issue with historic preservationists.  (On the other hand, you can argue that wires are historic too...)

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