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The future of Buses is Battery-Electric


MikeyB
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I thought I'd start this thread in light of OC Transpo and the city starting to test out battery-electric buses. Other cities are making the switch and there are a number of advantages to going full electric. It will save the city about $43 Million a year in diesel, maintenance requirements are lower, pollution is much lower - both noise and fumes, they always start in the winter so increase fleet availability, and so much more!

Basically something like a Proterra bus would be an excellent drop-in replacement for any of our diesel buses and are better buses overall.

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While it is the future of buses, we still need to be ready for them, need to build the charging stations (will we have only long distance, charge only at night batteries, or do what Montreal does, with charging stations at the end of lines, with shorter distance buses). Will we retrofit a current depot for electric buses, or build a new one for them (especially if we go with charge at night buses)?  Also, how long do batteries expect to last? will we need to replace them halfway through the bus' life? How much will that cost in total, and would that off set the cost of diesel throughout the life of the bus/battery?

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44 minutes ago, MikeyB said:

I thought I'd start this thread in light of OC Transpo and the city starting to test out battery-electric buses.

Did I miss some news or is this just about the campaign promise Jim Watson made?

25 minutes ago, corynv said:

Will we retrofit a current depot for electric buses, or build a new one for them (especially if we go with charge at night buses)?  Also, how long do batteries expect to last? will we need to replace them halfway through the bus' life? How much will that cost in total, and would that off set the cost of diesel throughout the life of the bus/battery?

Part of that is information I'm sure the bus manufacturer would be able to provide and account for (i.e. how long the battery will last, how to accommodate their maintenance, etc) and the rest would be the reason why we'd pilot them (i.e. how much we could save by using them, or otherwise). 

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21 hours ago, MikeyB said:

maintenance requirements are lower,

 

This has yet to be seen. It certainly hasn't turned out that way from hybrids, and that was one of their claims to fame as well.

 

21 hours ago, MikeyB said:

they always start in the winter so increase fleet availability, and so much more!

 

And yet batteries have a lower range in the cold, so........

 

Dan

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22 hours ago, OCCheetos said:

Did I miss some news or is this just about the campaign promise Jim Watson made?

They had a couple of Nova Electric examples at the beginning of the year at the St Laurent yard, not sure if they still have them though. They were just testing them out. Unfortunately the Nova electric buses are kind of the worst/most limited ones available so...the Mayor tweeted pics of it at one point.

 

1 hour ago, smallspy said:

This has yet to be seen. It certainly hasn't turned out that way from hybrids, and that was one of their claims to fame as well.

It's true for electric cars and there's no reason why it wouldn't also be true for buses. Electric vehicles are an order of magnitude simpler mechanically than piston equivalents with fewer moving parts and a lot less complexity. Anyone who knows anything about machines knows that simplicity usually equates to reliability. Other cities have been using electric buses for some time now and they do indeed have much lower maintenance requirements.

They Hybrids the city bought are a terrible example. They weren't even 'hybrids' as most people think of them today like a Prius where the engine has start-stop and the electric motors can drive the vehicle a short distance. The Hybrid buses did not have those features and were basically the worst of both worlds. They had the complexity of an additional propulsion system but did not receive many of the fuel saving an electric system can provide. It's a shame the city chose such an inferior product because it seems to have soured people on electrification which will only hold our city back and cost our city money, time, and pollution that we can't really afford.

 

1 hour ago, smallspy said:

And yet batteries have a lower range in the cold, so........

They do have slightly lower range in the cold but it won't be an issue. Most systems now have active thermal management and the range hit isn't very dramatic. The city would also be able to size the battery packs with cold weather in mind so it won't be an issue. It's not so much cold weather that affects an electric vehicle but having a cold battery. If the battery is kept warm by a battery management system or even just a warmish garage then there is really no issue. I drive electric vehicles every day, I have an old 2012 Leaf, and even with its primitive (compared to today's) battery management system it still does my daily commute without issue regardless of the outside temperature, and because it's battery-electric I never have to worry about it starting in the cold and it has instant heat since there's no waiting for an engine to warm up.

Battery electric really is better but I understand the hesitation some people have, change can be scary.

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7 minutes ago, Someguy3071 said:

If that's not an understatement of the century I don't know what it is. Which electric bus manufacturer do work for?

Uh none? I've been driving plug-in cars daily for a couple of years now, I have experience with the technology. It's not magic. 

What I'm saying is not outlandish but it may be counter to a lot of the anti-EV propaganda that's out there, and there is a lot of it out there! 

If you had any experience with electric drive @Someguy3071 you would probably be better able to separate truth from propaganda.

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Here's a recent article about the STM's electric bus pilot (the one involving the quick-charging NovaBuses like the one demoed here in Ottawa in the fall)

https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/success-of-montreals-electric-buses-comes-at-a-high-cost

Other than the high cost of the prototype charging stations it doesn't really mention why the experiment is considered a failure? If the only failure was the high cost of those chargers then I don't see what'll be so bad about that type of bus once the price of those stations comes down.

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2 minutes ago, OCCheetos said:

Here's a recent article about the STM's electric bus pilot (the one involving the quick-charging NovaBuses like the one demoed here in Ottawa in the fall)

https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/success-of-montreals-electric-buses-comes-at-a-high-cost

Other than the high cost of the prototype charging stations it doesn't really mention why the experiment is considered a failure? If the only failure was the high cost of those chargers then I don't see what'll be so bad about that type of bus once the price of those stations comes down.

The Nova electric buses have a lower range and higher cost than some of their competitors which is why I previously said they were inferior, although not a failure. With a long enough range in a bus - and there are battery-electric buses with ranges that match diesel - a DC fast-charge solution become unnecessary although still potentially useful (always nice to fast charge if you need it). The problem with the shorter range Nova electrics is that they pretty much need the fast charge to make it work which is okay for some routes but ideally you'd want the buses to more-or-less be a drop-in replacement for the existing route network and we're at the point now where battery-electric buses are able to do that. Extra infrastructure is okay but not ideal, plus as you said it carries a pretty high cost.

I'd like to see the city trial a few types, maybe have a competition or something, instead of trying out what amounts to be the worst example of battery-electric buses and making decisions based on that one skewed sample. It would be like saying EV cars are garbage because you drove in a golf cart that one time and didn't bother to look at a Hyundai or Tesla.

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1 hour ago, MikeyB said:

Uh none? I've been driving plug-in cars daily for a couple of years now, I have experience with the technology. It's not magic. 

What I'm saying is not outlandish but it may be counter to a lot of the anti-EV propaganda that's out there, and there is a lot of it out there! 

If you had any experience with electric drive @Someguy3071 you would probably be better able to separate truth from propaganda.

Ok, you can drop the sanctimonious bullshit right there.

Just because members of this board are skeptical of an emerging technology doesn’t make them anti EV. Many of us are operators with daily experience with electric drives, hybrids at least, and at least one of us is a technician with  13 years hands on experience  with the series hybrid system, 11 of those with LiPo batteries which are identical to the pure electric units you prosthelytize to. We’ve been led down the garden path before.

My employer in Toronto is embarking on a 3 year scientific study of the real world costs and benefits of a 60 unit battery electric fleet, comprised of 20 buses apiece from the 3 current long range models available. This is the first time anyone has done a head to head comparison in North America. That information is publicly available, and even more accessible via this board if you had taken the time to research. My opinion on the technology will be based on the factual results of that study, not the anecdotal evidence of a smug douche.

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31 minutes ago, Bus_Medic said:

Ok, you can drop the sanctimonious bullshit right there.

Just because members of this board are skeptical of an emerging technology doesn’t make them anti EV. Many of us are operators with daily experience with electric drives, hybrids at least, and at least one of us is a technician with  13 years hands on experience  with the series hybrid system, 11 of those with LiPo batteries which are identical to the pure electric units you prosthelytize to. We’ve been led down the garden path before.

My employer in Toronto is embarking on a 3 year scientific study of the real world costs and benefits of a 60 unit battery electric fleet, comprised of 20 buses apiece from the 3 current long range models available. This is the first time anyone has done a head to head comparison in North America. That information is publicly available, and even more accessible via this board if you had taken the time to research. My opinion on the technology will be based on the factual results of that study, not the anecdotal evidence of a smug douche.

Thank you!!! This forum would seriously suck if it was as all just a bunch of fan boys all posting in agreement. 

1 hour ago, MikeyB said:

Uh none? I've been driving plug-in cars daily for a couple of years now, I have experience with the technology. It's not magic. 

What I'm saying is not outlandish but it may be counter to a lot of the anti-EV propaganda that's out there, and there is a lot of it out there! 

If you had any experience with electric drive @Someguy3071 you would probably be better able to separate truth from propaganda.

Electric bus is not an electric car so your electric car experience is completely irrelevant. I personally don't care what kind of bus I drive as long as it works. Just look at the list of excuses electric bus builders come up with why their buses in a lot of cases don't even get half the advertised range. 

- Oh you turned the A/C on in the summer

- You turned the heat on in the winter

- You put buses on routes with hills

- Accelerating too hard

- You put buses on routes with faster speeds

- Your operators are using the buses wrong

That's just off the top of my head. 

The problem is that battery tech is not quite ready for electric buses to become completely mainstream and a direct competitor to diesel and hybrid buses. I can get in the seat of any diesel and hybrid bus and drive without problems. If I have to modify my driving to suit your electric bus to try to coax more mileage out of it then it's an inferior product. 

 

I love how people who read the stats like to tell everyone who actually has experience how to do things better. 

 

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3 hours ago, MikeyB said:

It's true for electric cars and there's no reason why it wouldn't also be true for buses. Electric vehicles are an order of magnitude simpler mechanically than piston equivalents with fewer moving parts and a lot less complexity. Anyone who knows anything about machines knows that simplicity usually equates to reliability. Other cities have been using electric buses for some time now and they do indeed have much lower maintenance requirements.

Except that's all theory. What percentage of electric vehicles out there that have had to go through a battery replacement process, which is a part of the lifespan of a vehicle in a commercial service? I would bet you that the number is *maybe* in the single-digit percentages. And that's not an inconsequential process - or cost.

 

A bus is also a hell of a lot more complex than a personal car, and the duty cycle is a hell of a lot harder on the vehicle. The components used on a car will simply not last when used in a commercial situation.

 

Anyone who knows anything about machines will also tell you to stay away from the first generation of anything and wait for it to have matured. We're only on the first generation of electric buses. And while we're into the second generation of hybrids, a lot of properties are still very leery of them.

 

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They Hybrids the city bought are a terrible example. They weren't even 'hybrids' as most people think of them today like a Prius where the engine has start-stop and the electric motors can drive the vehicle a short distance. The Hybrid buses did not have those features and were basically the worst of both worlds. They had the complexity of an additional propulsion system but did not receive many of the fuel saving an electric system can provide. It's a shame the city chose such an inferior product because it seems to have soured people on electrification which will only hold our city back and cost our city money, time, and pollution that we can't really afford.

Uhhh.....they are absolutely hybrids. They store energy from braking, just like a Prius. And newer versions have engine-stop technology and can operate entirely on batteries as well.

 

Also, additional propulsion system? No. Not even close. You may want to look up on how they operate, because they have only one propulsion system.


(For the record, a Prius along with many other hybrids currently on the market do in fact have two propulsion systems: a mechanical one and an electric one.)

 

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They do have slightly lower range in the cold but it won't be an issue. Most systems now have active thermal management and the range hit isn't very dramatic. The city would also be able to size the battery packs with cold weather in mind so it won't be an issue. It's not so much cold weather that affects an electric vehicle but having a cold battery. If the battery is kept warm by a battery management system or even just a warmish garage then there is really no issue. I drive electric vehicles every day, I have an old 2012 Leaf, and even with its primitive (compared to today's) battery management system it still does my daily commute without issue regardless of the outside temperature, and because it's battery-electric I never have to worry about it starting in the cold and it has instant heat since there's no waiting for an engine to warm up.

Slightly?!? So you haven't seen the reports that are coming out from various reputable sources that are stating that in "extreme" temperatures the batteries are lasting for almost half of their rated distance? To suggest that "it won't be an issue" is so frankly oblivious to reality as to be laughable.

 

For the record, the "extremes" that the tests were operating in were temperatures that would require to use your A/C or your heat - both of which require a higher draw on your battery pack without providing any compensating braking/recharging ability. Not extreme at all, but extreme in the sense that the companies won't give you test results at those points because it will lower the maximum distance figure that they are trying to entice you with.

 

As for sizing the battery packs .....uhhh, no. There are options, sure, but you get what you get. You can't just go to a company and say "I want a battery bus that will last 300miles in the winter" because that simply doesn't exist. In the future? Sure. But not right now, and not with the technologies available.

 

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Battery electric really is better but I understand the hesitation some people have, change can be scary.

There is nothing wrong with change, and there's nothing wrong with battery electric vehicles. But as replacements for diesel fueled vehicles, the technology just hasn't caught up with the blatant hype fueling sales and booster-ism.


Dan

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There are a lot of problems with that CBC article which I'd love to discuss with open-minded people but whatever,  @Bus_Medic and @Someguy3071 seem to enjoy making personal attacks instead.

I'm aware of the TTC trial and a big fan of evidence-based decision making so good on them for taking the time to do proper testing, I'd like to see Ottawa take the same approach but sadly they only have a couple of non-representative samples instead. The hybrid buses had a lot of problems and OC Transpo's negative experience with those buses should not influence its decision to explore fully-electric buses since the two are not related at all but it seems to be colouring OC Transpo's views on the topic which is a shame.

If anyone would like to discuss the electrification of the OC Transpo fleet using actual facts I'd be happy to have that discussion but personal attacks and non-factual arguments based on fear and oil industry propaganda are not welcome here.

@smallspy I would argue that the technology has indeed caught up to, and in some ways, exceeded diesel buses. Look at what Proterra is doing. Even New Flyer has some decent battery vehicles now. And I have seen the reports from reputable sources about extreme cold temperatures. There are a lot of factors that impact EV range and a lot of things that can be done to mitigate those impacts. i would also point out that at extreme temperatures Diesel vehicles are not reliable either unless certain steps are taken. A lot of those reports leave out key details and are written to get views so they tend to sensationalize things.

You make a good point though, we shouldn't rely on the manufacturer's claims either, Ottawa should acquire a test fleet and do its own research. 

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To insinuate that we are simply ignorant for not agreeing with you right off the bat is a personal insult to the rest of us. You fired the first shot. To dismiss differing points of view out of hand as unenlightened is more reflective on you than us.

Happily “closed minded” professional since 2003....the TTC seems to think I have a good enough handle on the industry to keep me on the payroll for 15 years...fixing asynchronous traction motors, IGBTs, 600 volt lithium packs, and yes, Diesel engines (gasp!) so...

Furthermore, who are you to dictate to us what is or is not welcome here? You only popped up Monday. Oil industry propaganda? Please....

I’ll suspect you’d be rather mortified to hear that the cabin of all current electric buses on the market are heated by a device that runs on your old nemesis- diesel fuel. There’s simply no engineering workaround for that for the foreseeable future. Here’s a pic of said heater I screenshot from a YouTube video:

3E12A3B9-04B6-4B19-88B9-865806682FE6.thumb.png.217e7a84e119ca8e277a388808994bcf.png

The reliability issues you speak of in diesel commercial vehicles in extreme temperatures are transferable to EVs as well. Both have air compressors, dryers and pneumatic brake systems that can freeze, malfunction, and disable the vehicle.

Having a different power source at the back end won’t change that. But of course, you already knew that, right?

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Here's another thing to consider regarding buying a test fleet of electric buses: who's gonna pay for them?  Ottawa is building a very expensive light rail system at the moment, and because of the delays in completing the system, OC Transpo and the City of Ottawa are shelling out millions of extra dollars to keep the existing system running.  Maybe the city could get some extra funding from the Trudeau and/or Ford governments, but at the moment Ottawa has no extra money to spend.  Have you actually driven on Ottawa's streets this winter?  I do every single day, and I am repeatedly surprised at the state of snow clearance in this city, and never in a good way.  But at least the snow and ice fill the potholes/craters on our major roads to the point where I'm not constantly reminded of riding old leaf-spring suspension school buses back in my salad days. 😩

Frankly, I'd take the expertise of @Bus_Medic or @smallspy any day versus the over-hyped promise of a utopian future if only we abandon immediately the proven vehicle technology we've been using for the past century, even with all of the drawbacks of using fossil fuels.

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14 minutes ago, tomsbuspage said:

Ottawa is building a very expensive light rail system at the moment, and because of the delays in completing the system, OC Transpo and the City of Ottawa are shelling out millions of extra dollars to keep the existing system running.

Not to mention the $1 billion jump in the price of Stage 2 that was just announced...

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for battery powered vehicles, if proven practical for commercial applications. AndLet’s not forget that encouraging ridership with convenient, frequent, reliable transit service is still a net environmental win in and of itself for the automobiles it keeps off the road, even if the bus itself is fossil fuel powered. Many seem to not see the forest for the trees in that regard.

After all, a proterra isn’t reducing any greenhouse gasses if it turns out it has to be towed back to the garage every day it’s below -20.....unless we’re gonna make EV tow trucks now? 

Time will tell. It’s definitely an interesting time to be a mechanic.

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11 hours ago, MikeyB said:

Uh none? I've been driving plug-in cars daily for a couple of years now, I have experience with the technology. It's not magic. 

What I'm saying is not outlandish but it may be counter to a lot of the anti-EV propaganda that's out there, and there is a lot of it out there! 

If you had any experience with electric drive @Someguy3071 you would probably be better able to separate truth from propaganda.

A plug in car is nowhere near a bus my friend, not even close

What is this anti EV-propaganda, facts are facts

UNLESS they are not facts you appreciate, then it becomes propaganda

Cue the name calling in 3,2...

 

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On 2/21/2019 at 9:15 AM, MikeyB said:

I thought I'd start this thread in light of OC Transpo and the city starting to test out battery-electric buses. Other cities are making the switch and there are a number of advantages to going full electric. It will save the city about $43 Million a year in diesel, maintenance requirements are lower, pollution is much lower - both noise and fumes, they always start in the winter so increase fleet availability, and so much more!

Basically something like a Proterra bus would be an excellent drop-in replacement for any of our diesel buses and are better buses overall.

Please cite your source data on:

-the 43 million in savings on diesel (of course the salesman has such lofty numbers, plus what is the true cost of the power and the acquisition and maintenance of the  re-charging infrastructure, less than the 43 million?)

-maintenance requirements are lower (than what, please show your work)

-pollution is much lower - both noise and fumes (while I agree with noise, something is still being burned somewhere to produce the electricity, and let us add in the visual pollution of charging infrastructure)

-they always start in the winter so increase fleet availability (all 100% always start?  source data and not a sales pamphlet and just as a what if, suppose the over-nite charging fails, then what?)

-and so much more! (PLEASE elaborate)

-Basically something like a Proterra bus would be an excellent drop-in replacement for any of our diesel buses and are better buses overall.  (on what planet can you merely "drop in" an entirely different type of equipment with different needs/requirements?  AND how does a new model even equate to being "better busses overall" than the current fleet.  What criteria is being used, again, source data is sorely required)

 

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7 minutes ago, Benton Harper said:

-pollution is much lower - both noise and fumes (while I agree with noise, something is still being burned somewhere to produce the electricity, and let us add in the visual pollution of charging infrastructure)

Ottawa (and gatineau) use A LOT of hydro-electric power. I'm not sure of the exact ratio, but it is by far the highest source of electricity. Plus even if we did fully use coal (or something else) it'd still be better to use electric buses on the pollution side, because a full scale power plant burns its fuel much more efficiently than a bus does.

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2 hours ago, corynv said:

Ottawa (and gatineau) use A LOT of hydro-electric power. I'm not sure of the exact ratio, but it is by far the highest source of electricity. Plus even if we did fully use coal (or something else) it'd still be better to use electric buses on the pollution side, because a full scale power plant burns its fuel much more efficiently than a bus does.

Agree 100% with you regarding Ottawa/Gatineau as we are talking a specific application whereas MikeyB is making a blanket statement, vague generalities at best.

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