The great state of Utah can now lay claim to the first and only wirelessly charged electric bus designed and developed exclusively by a North American research organization, namely Utah State University. Under the somewhat pedestrian monicker Aggie Bus (we prefer Shazam!, but whatevs), the new vehicle is also the first of its kind in the world to achieve key performance standards for a wirelessly charged vehicle.
World’s Top-Performing Wirelessly Charged Bus
The breakthrough prompted Robert T. Bhunin, the Utah State University Vice President of commercialization and regional development, and apparent Master of Understatement, to state that the Aggie Bus is “a historic achievement and a great leap forward in the science and engineering related to electric vehicles.”
Given the facts at hand it’s hard to disagree with that. Last year, the USU research team had already demonstrated that it could achieve an impressive electrical transfer efficiency of 90%, for five kilowatts over a gap of ten inches.
The new electric Aggie Bus demonstrates that wireless charging is a viable option at least for vehicles that make scheduled stops at pre-determined locations, which in this case consists of bus stops.
The bus simply stops over a pad in the ground to recharge its batteries, and Bob’s your uncle. Without wireless capabilities, the driver would have to get out of the bus to plug in manually, which aside from losing time would complicate things from a safety perspective.
USU also notes that, in terms of maintenance, the wireless system involves significant savings over plug-in systems, since it involves no moving parts and virtually no wear and tear. The system is also weatherproof and it eschews unsightly wires, too.
With a reliable network of frequent recharges at hand, the Aggie Bus can run all day without having to charge up a full load of heavy, expensive on-board batteries. That makes it the equal of any standard diesel or compressed natural gas bus.
Wireless Bus is Ready to Roll
More to the point, the electric Aggie Bus is no hothouse flower. It’s a “robust prototype” for a commercially viable vehicle. If that seems like a bit of a stretch, consider that similar wireless electric bus technology is also being introduced in London.
As a matter of fact, the Utah Transit Authority has committed to a partnership for launching a full scale demonstration of the new technology by the middle of next year, consisting of a 40-foot transit bus on a public transit route through the campus of another state institution, the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
Extend that out beyond the campus, open it up to any vehicle with a wireless charging feature, and suddenly Utah could have bragging rights to the nation’s most advanced electric highway. West Coast Electric Highway, move over!
We Built This!
It does without saying that Utah State University is a public institution (#1 in the West, according to its website), and so is the University of Utah, which purchased the bus. The whole electric bus project is a creature of the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative of the Utah state legislature, which pumps public funds into academic institutions in support of the state’s tech sector. So, the taxpaying citizens of Utah get to pat themselves on the back for this breakthrough.
But hey, we in the other 49 states can give ourselves a pat on the back for the wireless electric Aggie Bus, too. The demonstration project is being funded mainly through a $2.7 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Image: Wireless electric bus, courtesy of USU via prnewswire
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Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.