Electric Ultracapacitor Buses Becoming More Feasible

 

[social_buttons]

One thing many Americans have been loathe to accept is public transportation. Perhaps it is a feeling embodied in the quote attributed to Homer Simpson that “public transportation is for jerks and lesbians.” Or maybe it’s the fact that America is huge and far too spread out to make public transportation viable for many commuters. Yet even so, public transportation remains one of the smartest choices for much of the US, and, with the green revolution must come greater acceptance of it.

And, when you’re talking public transit, buses make up one of the most important parts, but they are gas guzzlers. So naturally, weening these behemoths off of petrol is a high priority for many city governments. Towards this end, China and Sinautec have been testing a fleet of electric buses equipped with ultracapacitors for quick recharging and zero emissions… and so far it works.

Of course, there is a catch.





Seating 41 people, the Sinautec buses are lightweight and fully electric thanks to the ultracapacitors on-board. Even though the charge time is quick (around 5 minutes), the problem with these ultracapacitors is that they need to be constantly recharged, as often as every 3.5 miles (with air conditioning) to 5.5 miles (without a/c). To combat this problem, numerous charging stations are located along the predictable bus routes.

The buses have a maximum speed of 30 mph, and, obviously, with such a short range these first generation buses are severely limited. Yet they spew out 2/3 less emissions than a regular bus—even if the bus gets its electricity from coal power. And surprisingly the bus trips don’t take much longer than a regular bus trip because the quick charging occurs automatically when the bus extends a line from its roof to an overhead charger.

Converting buses worldwide to electricity or other renewable, cleaner fuel sources would be a huge undertaking, but would ultimately benefit a large amount of people. State governments would be less burdened with fuel costs (Sinautec estimates their bus could save $200,000 over a 12-year lifespan) and fewer breakdowns, as electric vehicles have fewer moving parts. This means fares could be cheapened to make public transportation more appealing. I don’t expect to see too many Sinautec buses around me anytime soon, but if they could double the mileage while keeping charging to 5 minutes or less, it might start making even more sense. How many city buses go faster than 30 mph anyway?

Source: Treehugger | Photo: Sinautec





About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • rob

    I’m surprised they don’t use inductive charging under the street. They could have a pad under each bus stop and at each stop light along the way. No overhead wiring. And why not also used some solar and battery combo to extend range?

  • rob

    I’m surprised they don’t use inductive charging under the street. They could have a pad under each bus stop and at each stop light along the way. No overhead wiring. And why not also used some solar and battery combo to extend range?

  • It’s a good idea running buses on clean power but the recharging intervals and top speeds are ridiculous. Only inner city buses would be able to run with these restrictions.

  • It’s a good idea running buses on clean power but the recharging intervals and top speeds are ridiculous. Only inner city buses would be able to run with these restrictions.

  • Peter

    With the basic electric bus platform, it would seem that there are few more options to extend the range of any bus service to suite the route. For example, a LNG motor-to-generator module could be added, in a serial-hybrid setup to extend the range further. I am glad it’s being tried, in China, where the majority of the public do not own cars.

  • Peter

    With the basic electric bus platform, it would seem that there are few more options to extend the range of any bus service to suite the route. For example, a LNG motor-to-generator module could be added, in a serial-hybrid setup to extend the range further. I am glad it’s being tried, in China, where the majority of the public do not own cars.

  • Hugo

    Tech I understand what you are saying, but, at least in Europe, most buses work inside the city. And they don’t travel more than 2,5 to 3.5 Km between stops. I have to say, that with small changes in the recharging method, this solution would be perfect for us…

  • Hugo

    Tech I understand what you are saying, but, at least in Europe, most buses work inside the city. And they don’t travel more than 2,5 to 3.5 Km between stops. I have to say, that with small changes in the recharging method, this solution would be perfect for us…

  • russ

    Electric cars/buses will be great when they work.

    Stop for 5 minutes every 3.5 miles? That is a joke only possibly with an authoritarian government and with no alternate mod of transport available.

  • russ

    Electric cars/buses will be great when they work.

    Stop for 5 minutes every 3.5 miles? That is a joke only possibly with an authoritarian government and with no alternate mod of transport available.

  • Choralsinger

    While China recharges these buses every 3.5-5.0 miles taking 5 minutes, why couldn’t they be recharged at regular stops more frequently for shorter periods? The concept of electric buses is not revolutionary — the trackless trolleys in Atlanta and other locations and before them, electric streetcars. The only difference with the addition of ultracapacitors is the removal of the need for a continuous power supply by continuous overhead wire…

  • Choralsinger

    While China recharges these buses every 3.5-5.0 miles taking 5 minutes, why couldn’t they be recharged at regular stops more frequently for shorter periods? The concept of electric buses is not revolutionary — the trackless trolleys in Atlanta and other locations and before them, electric streetcars. The only difference with the addition of ultracapacitors is the removal of the need for a continuous power supply by continuous overhead wire…

  • I think that if they spent 1-2 minutes at every stop recharging, rather than 5-10 minutes every 3-5 miles, it would make more sense.

    Does it really work right now? Naaah…but ultracapcitors are only going to get better, and may soon reach the point where they make more sense than ICE engines.

  • I think that if they spent 1-2 minutes at every stop recharging, rather than 5-10 minutes every 3-5 miles, it would make more sense.

    Does it really work right now? Naaah…but ultracapcitors are only going to get better, and may soon reach the point where they make more sense than ICE engines.

  • Adrian Akau

    “And surprisingly the bus trips don’t take much longer than a regular bus trip because the quick charging occurs automatically when the bus extends a line from its roof to an overhead charger.”

    I used to ride electric buses in Honolulu when I was young and regret that they were done away with in liu of diesel buses which produced black smoke and irritating fumes. I think that a real plus for capacitor buses is the fact that city air will cleaner to breath. I think that this type of vehicle will prove beneficial in downtown areas, especially where traffic is congested.

    India was forced to pass legislation outlawing older diesel motor vehicles in large cities because studies from health clinics showed an abnormally high incidence of respiratory ailments associated with diesel fumes.

    adrianakau2aol.com

  • Adrian Akau

    “And surprisingly the bus trips don’t take much longer than a regular bus trip because the quick charging occurs automatically when the bus extends a line from its roof to an overhead charger.”

    I used to ride electric buses in Honolulu when I was young and regret that they were done away with in liu of diesel buses which produced black smoke and irritating fumes. I think that a real plus for capacitor buses is the fact that city air will cleaner to breath. I think that this type of vehicle will prove beneficial in downtown areas, especially where traffic is congested.

    India was forced to pass legislation outlawing older diesel motor vehicles in large cities because studies from health clinics showed an abnormally high incidence of respiratory ailments associated with diesel fumes.

    adrianakau2aol.com

  • Pedro

    I agree with ChoralSinger, because has found the ideal solution. Nowadays data translated to the international system are approx. recharges every 3.5 miles (5 km) and 30 mph top speed (50 km). In Europe, distance between regular bus stops are smaller, so if the recharge every 2.5 km the recharging time would be 1-2 minutes (this is, less than the time passangers need to take on and off). Also, an alternative system for the air conditioning (ie fluid storage and/or recharge the liquid at bus stops or small- battery swapping only for air conditioning) can be found to extent the range (but this is optional). Another solution is use two charging points at the same time in the same bus stop. And logically, solar panels and (wind) microturbines would also extend the range. Regards.

  • Pedro

    I agree with ChoralSinger, because has found the ideal solution. Nowadays data translated to the international system are approx. recharges every 3.5 miles (5 km) and 30 mph top speed (50 km). In Europe, distance between regular bus stops are smaller, so if the recharge every 2.5 km the recharging time would be 1-2 minutes (this is, less than the time passangers need to take on and off). Also, an alternative system for the air conditioning (ie fluid storage and/or recharge the liquid at bus stops or small- battery swapping only for air conditioning) can be found to extent the range (but this is optional). Another solution is use two charging points at the same time in the same bus stop. And logically, solar panels and (wind) microturbines would also extend the range. Regards.

  • We can call it CAPABUS. Regards.

  • We can call it CAPABUS. Regards.

  • Prakash shinde

    final solution for Indian city…pune….As now their is devolopment of BRT bus going on roots are staight.so.. exact technology ,punesolar@yahoo.com is interested in deploying in india on BOO

  • Prakash shinde

    final solution for Indian city…pune….As now their is devolopment of BRT bus going on roots are staight.so.. exact technology ,punesolar@yahoo.com is interested in deploying in india on BOO