Share

Stuck behind a city bus at a red light? Close your windows quickly, or you’ll be inhaling the bus’ black exhaust.

A fast reaction may not be necessary much longer, because environmentally conscious innovations are changing the way buses roam the streets. Cities have turned to the more efficient all-electric bus to take people across town in an effort to minimize pollutant emissions.

This growing trend driven by demand for cleaner cities is influencing the specifications that city government buyers request in bus purchasing contracts and leading manufacturers are following suit.

Alternative public transit busses in the US

Electric Buses are on the Rise

In a March 2015 article by National Geographic, Bill Van Amburg, Senior Vice President of CALSTART, a nonprofit group advocating for green transportation innovations, said he expects the number of zero-emission buses will double by 2016 and make up 20% of the transit bus market by 2030.

Buses are morphing into giant battery-powered rolling computers.

National Geographic

Top Electric Bus Vendors by Dollar Amount:

Gillig
Siemens Industry
Sonny Merryman
North American Bus Industires
New Flyer of America

Source: Purchase Order Analytics

 
Awarded BYD Motors Inc. with what may be the most complete electric vehicle procurement in history. In August 2015, they closed on a contract for up to 800 heavy-duty buses, which includes 12 different categories of various propulsions, including all-electric buses. BYD will provide WSDOT with buses in 10 of the 12 vehicle types in the contract. The company will provide the buses by the end of 2015.
 

BYD manufactures seven different types of all-electric buses that are capable of long range and in-route charging configurations, and it is the only manufacturer on the contract with wireless on-route charging as an option. The all-electric bus can drive on a single charge for more than 155 miles even in heavy city traffic. As of April 2015, BYD bus fleets have completed more than 50 million miles and have been evaluated by more than 150 cities in 36 countries.

Earlier this year, Complete Coach Works brought IndyGo, or the Indianapolis Public Transportation Corp., its first electric buses. They are refurbished Gillig buses that run by 12 Lithium Cobalt batteries, a three-phase 480-watt motor and a new zero emission propulsion system. The buses have lightweight flooring and seats, low-resistances tires, and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems. These features help the buses travel 130 miles on a single battery charge.

“They’re smoother to drive, quieter (no loud diesel engine sound) and far more efficient than any other bus in our fleet,” IndyGo noted in April 2015.

Electric Bus Charging Stations by Design

As much as cities don’t want the bus' black exhaust, they also don’t want to build visually unappealing charging stations for these new buses. Officials are looking nice-looking stations or even groundbreaking alternatives.

 
Purchased six electric buses from Proterra, Inc., using grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration and released a request for quotes in May 2015 for engineering services to design an electric bus charging station to be constructed on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus for the exclusive use of the buses. The work will include site and technical evaluation, electrical engineering design, design of a secure enclosure, developing construction drawings and specifications, and an option to perform construction oversight. Because the site is on the campus, the RFP states, “The enclosure must be aesthetically pleasing, appropriate for public transit and suitable for a campus environment while conserving costs.”
 
 
Issued an RFP in August 2015 for design-build services for an electric bus charging station.
 

Other agencies are taking a different approach and considering more innovative ways of charging their electric bus fleets, such as charging systems that are embedded physically in the ground.

 
Released a Program Opportunity Notice in June 2014 to encourage replacing diesel buses with battery-powered electric buses. But more than that, MDOER wants to use proven technology to power electric buses and eliminate the need to charge them overnight at one location. Instead, MDOER is interested in innovations related to bus charges embedded in the ground on a route. Resonance Inductive Power Transfer (RIPT) is an example of relatively efficient wireless power transfer sufficient for recharging a heavy-duty bus.
 

The Electric Bus Market is Boosting Business for Multiple Industries

Electric buses are not only limiting emissions within city limits they are also boosting business prospects in a number of industries.

As can be expected, transportation vehicle vendors will adapt their offerings to fit the demands of agency buyers. In addition, operations and maintenance companies can boost their business because the buses and charging stations will need care and updates over time.

 
Awarded Complete Coach Works a contract in May 2015 to inspect, refurbish or repair hybrid-electric bus batteries.
 
 
Released a bid in August 2014 seeking quotes for electric bus line inspections and post-delivery audit services with the intent to ensure that the buses obtained by IPTC, when rebuilt, are top quality equipment, capable of delivering maximum performance with high reliability.
 

Construction companies will also receive opportunities as a result of electric bus adoption related to building needed charging stations. Architecture and engineering companies may also find their services being requested such as in the case of the Duluth Transit Authority, where the city sought to make their charging stations not only functional, but also visually attractive.