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Clean Transport ABB Unveils Flash Charging Electric Bus

Published on May 31st, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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ABB Unveils Ultrafast, 15-Second “Flash Charging” Electric Bus

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May 31st, 2013 by Zachary Shahan 

We’ve covered hybrid and electric buses for awhile. They’ve been growing steadily around the world and are becoming quite the cleantech solution to urban transportation needs. But there generally isn’t much “hot” news in this arena. There may be now — ABB has just unveiled a pretty wicked-looking 100% electric bus with “ultrafast charging times.” Here’s a quote from an ABB rep to me: “Using a laser-guided arm, onboard batteries are charged in 15 seconds with a 400-kilowatt boost. At the end of the bus line, a full recharge takes 3 to 4 minutes. No overhead wires are needed. Using a new electrical drive system, energy from the roof-mounted equipment is stored in batteries along with energy produced by the braking system.” And here’s some brief speculation from one of our readers, who also spotted the story and emailed over a note: “I’m betting a hybrid ultracapacitor and battery pack….” I’ve sent some questions to the ABB rep and will update this post when I receive the answers. In the meantime, here’s the full news release from ABB (image added):

TOSA bus

Zurich, May 30, 2013 – ABB, the leading power and automation technology group has developed a new technology that will help power the world’s first high-capacity flash charging electric bus system.

ABB announced at the 60th congress of the International Association of Public Transport (UTIP) in Geneva that it is working together with the city’s public transport company (TGP), the Office for the Promotion of Industries and Technologies (OPI) and the Geneva power utility SIG on the TOSA electric bus system pilot project.

The new boost charging technology will be deployed for the first time on a large capacity electric bus, carrying as many as 135 passengers. The bus will be charged directly at selected stops with a 15-second energy boost while the passengers enter and leave the bus, based on a new type of automatic flash-charging mechanism. The pilot project runs between Geneva airport and the city’s international exhibition center, Palexpo.

“Through flash charging, we are able to pilot a new generation of electric buses for urban mass transport that no longer relies on overhead lines,” said Claes Rytoft, ABB’s acting Chief Technology Officer. “This project will pave the way for switching to more flexible, cost-effective, public transport infrastructure while reducing pollution and noise.”

TOSA (Trolleybus Optimisation Système Alimentation) is a zero-carbon-emission solution as the electricity used comes entirely from clean hydro power. The charging time is so quick that it does not interfere with the bus schedule and improves the urban environment and landscape as it does not need overhead lines while providing greater route flexibility. The system uses a laser-controlled moving arm, which connects to an overhead receptacle for charging at bus shelters, instead of the usual trolley poles to overhead lines.

The flash-charging technology and the onboard traction equipment used in this project were developed by ABB and optimized for high-frequency bus routes in key urban areas, carrying large numbers of passengers at peak times. Onboard batteries can be charged in 15 seconds with a 400 kilowatt boost at selected stops. At the end of the bus line a 3 to 4 minute boost enables the full recharge of the batteries. Thanks to an innovative electrical drive system, energy from the roof-mounted charging equipment can be stored in compact batteries, along with the vehicle’s braking energy, powering both the bus and its auxiliary services, such as interior lighting.

For more information on electric vehicle charging click here.

ABB (www.abb.com) is a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve their performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in around 100 countries and employs about 145,000 people.

For help with any technical terms in this release, please go to: www.abb.com/glossary

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • bioburner

    OK but 400 KW for 15 seconds is only 1.7 KWH which is not going to push a bus very far. It is crazy fast.

  • zing

    Thats cool but I saw (and rode) these back at the shanghai expo 2010. Anybody know what company made them?

  • jim

    this would be an interesting article if Proterra hadn’t created this technology solution over 3 years ago…
    http://www.proterra.com/

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

  • Otis11

    Notice – this bus is only going a few kilometers on a charge.

    I don’t know that this is necessarily any new, innovative technology, but rather careful engineering to minimize the amount of batteries needed to get from the first charging station to the next (plus some overhead) and then structuring this minimal amount of batteries in such a way that they can be charged very quickly. I would be surprised if there is substantial innovation here.

    “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” -Einstein (Also see: Occam’s razor)

  • JMin2020

    Sweet system. Thanks for the post .

  • eject

    Actually this can be done with Li batteries with no big problem. The Headway 10Ah 3,3V LiFePo4 38.120SE cell can take 100A for 10 sec and 40A continuously. With a 400kW charger to be delivered at 4V (charging voltage of a single cell) for charging all cells paralelle a current of 125000A would be necessary. This can easily be swallowed by 1250 of the mentioned Headway cells. That would be the most extreme case scenario. Hence a Bus will need quiet some battery capacity it will have more an larger cells. Taking up 400kW for 15s is not something limited by the batteries, the wiring and the power supply is however.

  • http://soltesza.wordpress.com/ sola

    This will be some combination of ultracaps and batteries.

  • Marion Meads

    they could be using the most advanced super duper capacitors for quick charging. It would have been nice if ultracapacitors become a reality, but it was only a dream by EESTOR.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Ultracapacitors are quite real. They just haven’t found significant roles yet, prices are high.

      UCs don’t have large capacity. The charge and discharge very rapidly and last hundreds of thousands of cycles. They’d be to bulky to use as primary energy storage in a vehicle.

      • Marion Meads

        The reason why they are called Ultracapacitors is that they also have higher energy densities compared to super capacitors. There were few companies that tried regen capture using UCs, but the costs are too high. And as you already pointed out, no mass adoption so no roles as of yet, except perhaps some very few niche applications.

      • Kompulsa

        They certainly are real. I own a few tiny ones. They are tremendously powerful for their size.

  • J_JamesM

    This seems almost too good to be true. I would have thought that such insanely quick charging would be hell on the batteries.

    • Marion Meads

      super capacitors would be the ticket instead of batteries.

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