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M. Parsons

ETS Electric Bus testing

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Wow....Did ETS forget that they had an intire fleet of trolley buses? Edmonton had a decent trolley bus infrastructure all gone to come back 7 years later with a possibility of a purchase of just 5 electric golf cart buses that will probably go forgotten and never happen or hear about again. 

 

Just my 2 cents

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Looking back to 2009, the decision to scrap the trolleybuses was very controversial. The motion to scrap the trolleybus system passed 5-4. If I recall correctly, Don Iveson was on Council at the time and is the current Mayor of Edmonton. He was one of the votes in favour of keeping the trolleybus system. 

While scrapping the trolleybus system may not have been favourable, at least ordering a few electric buses is a start in the right direction. 

 

Here's a link to Don Iveson's blog post from 2009.

http://doniveson.ca/2009/05/01/last-run-for-edmonton-trolleys/

 

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Despite    the    issues    raised,    the    ETS    bus    operators    that    participated    in    the    focus    group    generally    felt    that    electric    buses    are    ready    to    be    placed    in    service    as    long    as    the    charging    infrastructure    is    available    to    meet    the    operating    needs    of    ETS.    Moreover,    they    stated    that    the    public    “is    becoming    more    environmentally    aware    and    ETS    should    be    setting    the    example”

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Whether    upstream    emissions,    or    those    from    the    tailpipe,    e-buses    are    a    better    choice    for    the    environment    than    the    current    diesel    fleet.    Investment    in    electric    vehicles    improves    air    quality    in    the    city,    and    in    the    atmosphere.

 

The raw figures for diesel vs. electric over the life cycle of the buses is $70 million for either a diesel fleet or BYD fleet and $89 million for a NFI fleet.

As a result, the recommendation is to go with the in garage recharging concept rather than en-route recharging. I still believe that the en-route charging option is the best for the busier routes and perhaps a longer term solution. As a proof of concept the garage recharging is suitable. At the end of the day. if you're looking long term at a electric fleet, you need to be able to handle the heavy loads, the early morning to late night runs. I suspect there's some economies of scale with en-route recharging. As an example, for the build out to support 40 buses, you need X number of charging stations and the power supplied to them. But, once that's installed, perhaps for another 40 buses you just have to add in a second charging station at an existing location with power. 
There's something to be said too for the reduced number of batteries needed on a en-route recharging bus.

There are a few misses with the report for the long term costs, which, I don't think can be quantified right now, such as actual operating costs and reliability.

At this point the BYD is NOT a proven product, or design. New Flyer is. Perhaps the components of the NFI electric bus aren't proven, but, NFI is an established builder in the North American market. BYD's first bus at Altoona suffered some pretty significant damage.

Following the formal test period which lasted until February 5, 2016, and consisted of 4 hour runs or so in the AM and PM peaks, ETS then started really putting the BYD's through their paces... putting them out for longer pieces, and, there seemed to be decreased reliability. This isn't reported on at all of even received a mention as it was out of scope.

The report also doesn't seem to look at a larger fleet of electric buses, but, I think that was probably out of scope. 

For now the, 5 bus recommendation is driven by the existing electrical facilities at Mitchell- they won't need upgrading any more than they already have been.

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Saw something on Twitter... 

"They tested 3 buses and imo it wasn't successful. Pretty sure they were in the shop more than on the road."

To this individual: there is a 139 page report that says otherwise. I know in this day in age it's easy to post your opinions. I'm sure Elise Stolte has read that report and unless you can provide some compelling reasons to disprove the report, I suspect she'll take your opinions with a grain of salt. 

That's not to say there wasn't downtime and that was clearly spelled out in the report. 6012 was not part of the formal testing either (nor was it intended to be I gather). Some things, like 6013 draining it's battery after Smart Bus was installed, are commissoning issues which don't reflect the true day to day reliability of a given bus or propulsion technology as a whole. 

My own observations were the buses frequently completed their runs during the formal testing period. After the testing period the buses seemed to encounter some difficulties when ETS started pushing them to their limits. Such as a 7 hour AM run, 2 hours at the garage and then back out for a 7-8 hour PM run.

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On Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 0:54 PM, M. Parsons said:

Saw something on Twitter... 

"They tested 3 buses and imo it wasn't successful. Pretty sure they were in the shop more than on the road."

To this individual: there is a 139 page report that says otherwise. I know in this day in age it's easy to post your opinions. I'm sure Elise Stolte has read that report and unless you can provide some compelling reasons to disprove the report, I suspect she'll take your opinions with a grain of salt. 

That's not to say there wasn't downtime and that was clearly spelled out in the report. 6012 was not part of the formal testing either (nor was it intended to be I gather). Some things, like 6013 draining it's battery after Smart Bus was installed, are commissoning issues which don't reflect the true day to day reliability of a given bus or propulsion technology as a whole. 

My own observations were the buses frequently completed their runs during the formal testing period. After the testing period the buses seemed to encounter some difficulties when ETS started pushing them to their limits. Such as a 7 hour AM run, 2 hours at the garage and then back out for a 7-8 hour PM run.

I know who your talking about I saw that tweet too lol

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2 hours ago, Cimon8000 said:

stupid city of getting rid of the trolley buses few years back, worst and most stupid decision ever for the city..................

Agreed...

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This could potentially make Edmonton one of the most progressive non-trolley electric systems in North America - a nice change in direction for a system that seems to have had a complex recent history with alternative fuels. 

 

It it does seem that the limitations of garage based charging are extreme, but as someone else mentioned, this could be the figurative "foot in the door." I hope the project well as it seems like a positive development in the industry. 

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(quote) Edmonton is pushing for what could be the largest number of electric buses that any city in North America has ever purchased.

“We’re breaking a new trail here,” said Coun. Scott McKeen. “So, the bus company should reward Edmonton with good prices.”

On Tuesday, the city will propose council approve purchasing 25 to 40 electric buses, for $30.6 million — depending on the unit price. (unquote)
Source: http://www.metronews.ca/news/edmonton/2016/11/24/edmonton-pushes-for-large-purchase-of-electric-buses.html

 

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^ Another 'feather' in Edmonton's cap...after they plucked the whole bird naked when they scrapped the trolley system ?!?!?!? Edmonton had the world by the tail once and couldn't see what a treasure they stupidly gave up...

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12 hours ago, captaintrolley said:

^ Another 'feather' in Edmonton's cap...after they plucked the whole bird naked when they scrapped the trolley system ?!?!?!? Edmonton had the world by the tail once and couldn't see what a treasure they stupidly gave up...

I don't disagree but I also realize that nearly every city gave up their trolley system. Of course, Edmonton did so much later than most and under different circumstances.

I am convinced that most transit buses will be battery powered electric before too long. It will be interesting to see if remaining trolley cities such as Seattle and Vancouver finally give up the overhead wires in favor of battery buses. I tend to think the economics will favor that approach before too long.

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9 hours ago, MAX BRT said:

It will be interesting to see if remaining trolley cities such as Seattle and Vancouver finally give up the overhead wires in favor of battery buses. I tend to think the economics will favor that approach before too long.

It depends upon the technology.

Will an battery bus be able to pull 18-24+ hour shifts on heavy routes? 

On street charging yes. But, certainly not charging only at the garage. 

Will on street charging be able to replace trolleybuses? I would say that will depend upon how good the recharging is. If a bus is running late, will the charging be fast enough that the bus can catch up to it's schedule if it's late? I don't think any transit agency, trolley or not, can afford to have to stop and wait for late buses if they need to recharge. So, maybe you have some spare buses available for fill trips, but, that then costs $$$$ for extra buses and operators.

Personally, I am thrilled Edmonton is in all likelihood going with an electric bus fleet. I am not too concerned about an orphan fleet at this point if technology changes in the future. What concerns me the most of fleet utlization. I strongly suspect we'll be going with garage charging buses (I forget the correct term!) as that one has the lowest costs. However, while there are runs that will support these buses, I'm curious if ETS will be able to utilize these buses to the same level the diesels currently are.

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Vancouverite chiming in here...

9 hours ago, MAX BRT said:

I am convinced that most transit buses will be battery powered electric before too long. It will be interesting to see if remaining trolley cities such as Seattle and Vancouver finally give up the overhead wires in favor of battery buses. I tend to think the economics will favor that approach before too long.

Someday, they might, but for busier routes with higher frequencies, the investment in maintaining overhead might still be worth it. Smaller batteries (auxiliary power unit rather than the main source of motive power), which are less expensive to replace and add less to the weight of the coach, plus no delays resulting from recharging.

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higher frequencies

This words are not in the ETS lexicon.. However, I do agree with you.  Also trolleys are more efficient than battery buses.

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1 hour ago, mike from edmonton said:

Both are about the same weight, so wear and tear on the road are pretty equal

Actually, with current technology, batteries are heavy, and most of the engineering emphasis is on using increased charge density to increase range rather than decrease weight. So the differences in energy usage and road wear are substantial. Also, you have to factor in the cost of a new battery pack every few years, because they don't last forever.

1 hour ago, mike from edmonton said:

Using smaller batteries with overhead recharging seems to be more expensive with overhead costs, but the wear and tear on roads should be slightly reduced

Just to clarify: In normal use, the power is drawn directly from the overhead. The batteries are used as an "auxiliary power unit" for when overhead power is unavailable for whatever reason: moving through a section where the overhead is de-energized for maintenance, getting the coach clear of an intersection after a dewirement, etc. Likewise, regenerative braking ordinarily returns electrical energy via the poles directly to the traction-power distribution network.

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7 hours ago, GORDOOM said:

Just to clarify: In normal use, the power is drawn directly from the overhead. The batteries are used as an "auxiliary power unit" for when overhead power is unavailable for whatever reason: moving through a section where the overhead is de-energized for maintenance, getting the coach clear of an intersection after a dewirement, etc. Likewise, regenerative braking ordinarily returns electrical energy via the poles directly to the traction-power distribution network.

Mike is referring to on street recharging battery buses that recharge from an overhead device. As they recharge during the course of their run, they don't need as many batteries on board as a bus that recharges only at the garage.

Batteries, from what I gather, don't need to be replaced every few years. I believe BYD has a 12 year warranty on their batteries.

9 hours ago, mike from edmonton said:

 

Frequency, headways, yup, not an ETS specialty.  Gotta wonder at what frquency the new west streetcar line will be seeing as the 2 is only half hour in the evenings right now

Overhead to maintain vs charging stations (in garage or on route) are about equal

WLRT would be 15 minute minimum service as it will more than likely run as one line with SELRT, and the SELRT sets out minimum 15 minute headways.

I doubt that overhead wire and charging stations maintenance costs are the same. Let's not forget the feeder cable network and substations that make up an entire trolley bus network. 

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It seems to me that it is more efficient to draw energy straight from the overhead to power the bus, rather than to charge the battery to power the bus. Just another 'step' in that process.

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2 hours ago, captaintrolley said:

It seems to me that it is more efficient to draw energy straight from the overhead to power the bus, rather than to charge the battery to power the bus. Just another 'step' in that process.

That makes sense. But the off-wire advantage of a battery bus is a big deal--plus many prefer not to see or have to maintain overhead wires. Maintaining a few chargers sounds simpler overall.

Experts think its going to come down to the cost and reliability of the batteries. And batteries have been improving steadily--and going down in price at the same time.

Tesla Motors says there is a steady and constant improvement. Batteries improve at least 5% a year. Source: http://insideevs.com/tesla-cto-j-b-straubel-30-increase-in-battery-energy-density-from-model-s-to-model-3-video/

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9 hours ago, M. Parsons said:

Batteries, from what I gather, don't need to be replaced every few years. I believe BYD has a 12 year warranty on their batteries.

Looks like it is 12 years, and also being claimed as "lifetime" - though I imagine that means the lifespan of the bus is 12 years and those running the buses longer will not have warranty coverage.

http://www.byd.com/na/ebus/ebus.html

 

Screen Shot 2016-11-27 at 4.08.44 PM.png

Screen Shot 2016-11-27 at 4.08.44 PM.png

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I needed a bit of time to work on this, but, without further adieu, the break down of what's coming to Council on Tuesday.

There are 3 options being presented. 

Option A: 5 electric buses, $6 million, to be based at Mitchell on account of upgrades made for the test phase.Essentially, these would be a longer term test to gain more experience with battery electric buses and develop a long term strategy to implement electric buses. Funding would come from the Bus Fleet Growth profile (this profile essentially allows to expand the bus fleet to be increased in size).

Option B: 40 electric buses, upto $48 million, to be based on the new Northeast Transit Garage currently being built. It will cost $1.3 million to equip the NETG to handle 40 electric buses. This has been on their radar, so, all that's required is to formally include it in the scope of the garage and no extra money over and above budgeted amounts will be needed. Funding comes from the Bus Fleet Growth profile noted about as well as the Accelerated Bus Replacements profile. This profile allows ETS to accelerate bus purchases ahead of needed replacements on account of the fact ETS purchased 231 buses in one shot that will all come up for replacement at once. The warning included with this profile is that essentially the money used from the bus replacement profile won't fund the same number of electric buses as if it were used for diesels, meaning it could screw up long term replacement plans.

Option C: 25 electric buses using only the entirety of the Bus Fleet Growth profile. This is based on a $1.2 million cost per bus. However, administration would be directed to purchase basically as many buses as the $30.6 million could buy. The thought is that a manufacturer might be willing to bring the price down for this large of an electric bus purchase and so could potentially allow up to 40 buses. 

The report notes that there is no standard for recharging infrastructure and ETS risks ending up with an under-supported technology and could make them difficult to maintain as a small subsection of the ETS fleet. 

The report does make mention of choosing a vendor that will support the buses over the life of the product, and for ETS this is 20 years for buses.

The risk assessments includes " New vendors may not be able to support the product (i.e., supply parts, respond effectively to warranty issue, support major service issues.) Longer maintenance times would result in lower book out rates for electric bus fleet."

As I've commented on before, the original electric bus study Edmonton did was based upon a 20 year life cycle. We know a New Flyer can be kept running for 20 years, but, what about a BYD? Or Proterra? Elsewhere on this board in fact I believe there's been at least one reference to the FTA using a 15 year useful life for an electric bus vs. 12 for a diesel. As Ashton dug up above, BYD is advertising a lifetime warranty on the batteries, but, if that was based upon the 12 year useful life and the FTA is looking at 15 years, how does that effect BYD's ability to deliver on that warranty? What can ETS expect? As an adendum to this thought, while working on the rest of my post I came across this in the Marcon report "the Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries are slower to recharge and are expected to deliver a longer system life than other types of Lithium battery: 18+ years, compared to about a 12-year life for the others , although both types are warranted for only 12 years." So, it seems a BYD battery could do 15 years, and New Flyer does warranty their batteries as well.

The report to council recommends option C, and recommends against option A and B. A few councillors have spoken about 40 buses, so, I do expect that come Tuesday we'll have approval for at worst option C, at best option B. Unlike the CNG report to council which seemed to have been slanted against the CNG's, I couldn't pick out anything anti-battery electric and administration genuinely seems to be behind the technology. As I'll mention below, their figures seem to be factoring in a cost of $1.2 million per bus which is towards the higher end of the Marcon report. 

Now some of my analysis and thoughts.

I'm curious what battery cost alone is. The Marcon report noted "at least one manufacturer has expressed a willingness to offer innovative financing terms for their buses that might make it possible to shift the risk of ownership of the energy storage system to the manufacturer". This has come up as well elsewhere on this board- leasing the batteries could shift the battery cost to become an operating cost rather than a capital cost. I could see that used with Option C to allow a purchase of more than just 25 buses.

The figures in the Marcon report were $949,200 for a trickle charge bus (BYD) and $1.3 million for en-route recharging (New Flyer). It seems that ETS is looking towards the higher end of the spectrum when budgeting for this potential fleet. The Marcon report actually recommended the trickle charge options. My concern is that the trickle charge option doesn't fully capitalize on the advantage of electric buses. The report does note: 

"From an externalities viewpoint, there are advantages to each e-bus technology. En-route charged buses can be dedicated to the longer blocks. This is significant because the more distance an e-bus covers, the greater financial benefit it yields compared to its diesel-fuelled counterpart. The most significant advantage of distributed charging strategies from a risk mitigation perspective is that there are more physical connections to the electrical grid. Consequently, there is greater redundancy in the infrastructure system. As for trickle charging, its main benefit is the lower initial investment required. Charging infrastructure would be located in the garage accommodating the e-buses. Adding charging stations to this facility will not represent a substantial investment compared to the cost of modifying eight transit centres in addition to the planned garage."

My concern is that ETS will blindly look at the cheapest option and go with that, rather than choosing the best option, which if it's maximized correctly, could be the en-route charging buses (simply, you can run more miles if you don't have to go back to garage for more juice).
Unfortunately, the Marcon figures didn't explore how many km/year it would take to bring the en-route option down to a comparable cost to the diesel bus and trickle charge bus. Granted, this then opens up the can of worms of electric drive train vs. diesel drive train longevity and maintenance costs. With all things being equal (say, XD40 vs. XE40) will the XE40 be able to deliver, say, 1.5 million km over 20 years and still have lower maintenance costs than a diesel bus at 989,000 km over those same 20 years?

The Marcon figures included en-route chargers at 8 transit centres. Their charger cost is $845,990 is based upon the Winnipeg installation. I sure hope they didn't use the costs for a one off charger as their base. As an example, surely engineering and project management of $140,998 wouldn't apply to each installation.
Given that the trolley network concentrated a fleet of buses on a few routes, I would think maximizing a battery fleet could be done by focusing on a few core routes. Frankly, I would center them around former trolley routes. The 5 would be a no brainer with chargers at Coliseum, Downtown (to service stub 3, stub 5, and 120's), and Westmount. The route 3 can over lap that by extending to Coliseum, and adding a charger at Jasper Place. Once you have the JP charger, The 120 would now overlap chargers at JP and Downtown, and the 125 could access chargers at Jasper Place and Coliseum. Perhaps a modified route 1? Eliminate the Capilano portion and add a West Edmonton Mall charger.
Additional options... add a charger at University and Northgate and now you can serve the 7/57, 130, 150, and 128... and that's only with 6 chargers.

Mr. Marriott, if you're reading this, in your expert opinion, how many of these routes would you need to operate 25 buses? 40 buses? Assuming 0% spare ratio as diesels supply that.

There's a few other quote worth mentioning from the Marcon report:

"Using the targeted blocks, each trickle-charged bus could maximally drive up to 57,800 km/year. The usage pattern supplied by ETS calls for up to 59,000 km of service in year 2. This will be achievable with trickle-charged e-buses as the downtime required for maintenance in the buses’ early life is no more than 15%"|

"The analysis of Westwood’s blocks suggests that using this rapid charging equipment, ETS could deploy more than 40 e-buses assigned to the majority of the longest blocks out of the garage. If the utilization rate of en-route charging stations reached 75%, the same en-route charging infrastructure could service an additional 16 buses."
It would be interesting to see how life cycle costs would play out if Marcon had calculated 56 buses on the longest runs.

While I am jumping to conclusions that ETS would choose the cheapest option, the fact they are looking at $1.2 million per bus is encouraging, and who knows what a large purchase could bring. I would imagine a response from New Flyer could include both trickle charge and en-route charging options. Could New Flyer reduce the cost of en-route chargers and buses for a larger order that would change the figures Marcon used? 

Now, despite my personal belief that en-route charging is the best option, and this is a slant from my experiences with advocating and support for trolleybuses and strongly believing in the advantages of electric traction in stop and go, heavy duty environments. For this particular potential fleet, I actually feel that with uncertainties with future standards that could relate to en-route recharging infrastructure, trickle charge buses might be the best option for an initial fleet so that ETS isn't faced with obsolescence with en-route charging equipment should things change in the next few years. It seems to me that the chargers used with BYD's wouldn't necessarily become obsolete (aren't they built into the bus, so you just plug the bus in?) the same way that the design of a on-route charger could (different mechanisms for connecting the bus to charger? voltage/ amp changes with different battery technology? 3 phase AC vs. DC?).
I actually feel that a good electric bus fleet would include both methods. Trickle charge buses for suburban routes, 8 hours or so runs, and then en-route charging buses for the heavier, mainline routes that operate 12-24 hours per say. That also spreads out the electrical demands to different parts of the City, and the trickle charging can happen during off peak times for electricity, but, is only required for a portion of the electric battery fleet. 

One operating scheme suggested has been an AM peak piece followed by a short recharging time, followed by a longer PM piece into the evening, followed by a full charge overnight.
Incidentally, ETS has been doing interesting things with assigning their 4 hybrid buses. After seemingly years of peak hour service only, they've been doing runs that are around 8-9 hours, as well as only peak hour service, and days where they do a AM peak piece, followed by a 7-8 hour PM peak - evening piece. Could be coincidental, but, I can't help but wonder if ETS is testing running a fleet of buses a specific set of run profiles that could mimic battery electric buses on similar runs.

And while things are looking positive, a slight reality check. When St. Albert was procuring electric buses, costs were higher than expected, so, they went from 40' buses to 35' buses at a cost of $980,000 each. I believe this was largely a result of the US dollar.

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