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Volvo hybrid electric bus

Cities Run Electric Buses on Existing Power Lines

Volvo hybrid electric busIn an attempt to meet climate change goals while staying within a tight city budget, the city of Vienna, Austria has introduced a fleet of electric buses that run unplugged and when it’s time to recharge, they tap the overhead power lines already installed for trams, the New York Times reports.

Siemens supplied the technology for the experimental fleet of 12 buses that can each carry 40 passengers. The company is speaking with five other cities in Europe and South America to follow in Vienna’s footsteps, the NYT says. While the electric buses are twice as expensive as older ones that run on liquid petroleum gas, with a price tag of $519,000, Vienna saved money by not having to install new infrastructure, instead leveraging the power lines from its tram system, the fifth largest in the world.

Cities like Vienna are striving to become greener because of initiatives from the European Commission requiring transportation emissions to be cut by 60 percent by 2050.

Tapping power lines is an idea others are experimenting with, as well. In May, the Volvo Group began testing a program to supply electric power to trucks and buses via power lines built into the surface of the road, thus eliminating the need for large in-vehicle batteries.

While city plug-in buses are equipped with a battery that can be charged quickly when the vehicles are at bus stops, this doesn’t work for long-distance trucks and buses, which would need so many batteries that there would be no room for any loads or passengers. Long-distance fleets require a solution where power is continuously supplied to the truck from an external source.  To this end, Volvo is participating in a large Swedish research project with the support of the Swedish Energy Agency.

Volvo also debuted its plug-in hybrid buses — which the company says reduce fuel consumption by at least 75 percent compared with diesel buses — in May, on the streets of Gothenburg, Sweden as part of a field test (pictured). Volvo says the plug-in technology will also reduce carbon dioxide by 75 to 80 percent, compared with current diesel buses, and reduce total energy consumption by about 60 percent.

Its North American subsidiary, Nova Bus, has received an order for 475 hybrid buses from Quebec, Canada, with an option for a further 1,200 vehicles. The customer, ATUQ, is a consortium consisting of the province’s nine transit authorities. Delivery of the 475 LFS HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) buses will start in 2014.

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One thought on “Cities Run Electric Buses on Existing Power Lines

  1. While seemingly a good idea, it cannot be made safe without a lot more money spent on each bus. The new DC charging specification requires 4 contacts, positive, negative, earth and pilot. The Vienna system only has positive and negative. This means that the bus need to be doubly insulated, like a trolleybus. This ups the bus construction costs dramatically. Also, you need a dc to dc converter on the bus to keep the unregulated DC from frying the batteries, a substantial cost. A dc to dc converter large enough for meaningful fast charging can be quite expensive.

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