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Clean Transport Eaton eyes the electric bus market for wireless charging

Published on December 10th, 2013 | by Tina Casey

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Imagine If Your Electric Bus Could Go Forever…

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December 10th, 2013 by
 
The power management and automotive company Eaton has just introduced its new HyperCharger, which can fast-charged electric vehicles (EVs) up to one megawatt (MW), demonstrating once again that electric vehicle technology is marching forward. The HyperCharger is designed specifically to enable on-route charging for electric buses, which means that routes no longer need to be tethered to centralized fueling stations and there is no need to travel off-route for fuel.

In contrast to liquid fuel stations, which need regular deliveries of fuel by truck, charging stations require no such attention once they are installed. Since the Eaton HyperCharger is taking aim at the “world’s largest fleets of electric buses,” the cumulative savings add up.

The Eaton On-Route HyperCharger

Eaton already has an EV fast charging system on the market called the DC Quick Charger, which has a 50kW (kilowatt) output through five 10kW power drawers. It provides an 80 percent charge in about half an hour.

Eaton eyes the electric bus market for wireless charging

Electric bus (cropped) by EURIST e.V.

That’s pretty good for most consumer EVs but obviously not so great for on-route electric bus charging, unless you time it with a rest stop. The new HyperCharger easily beats that with an output scalable from 200 kW to one mW (megawatt). The company’s press materials don’t list a charging time but on a demonstration basis, an average of eight on-route passes along the HyperChargers provided all of the electricity needed for the average 240-mile-per-day trip.

The Wireless Bus Route Of The Future

Also no word in the press materials on the potential for wireless charging (cagey, those Eaton folks!), but as an off-board system the HyperCharger concept is not too far removed from that, so let’s take a look at the future of EV charging. We’re already seeing wireless EV charging from companies like Evatran, Hevo Power, and Qualcomm (which recently hooked up with Britain’s Drayson Racing, no less), and just last year the US Department of Energy announced $4 million in funding for next-generation wireless systems. Most of this activity is focused on consumer vehicles but on-route wireless electric bus charging is also steadily advancing. One of the projects we’re following is the wireless electric bus system developed by Utah State University. When it was unveiled in November 2012 the  “Aggie Bus,” as they call it, was the first and only bus of its kind developed exclusively by a North American research institute, and according to Utah State it was also the first of its kind in the world to achieve key performance standards for a wirelessly charged vehicle. The pad-based wireless system involves no moving parts, which saves wear and tear on the equipment as well as sparing drivers from any potential safety hazards of having to get off the bus to plug in. The Utah Transit Authority has also committed itself to launching a full scale demonstration-scale test of the system, using a 40-foot transit bus on a public route that runs through the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Not for nothing, but pretty soon you won’t even have to park over a pad to charge up. The Energy Department is already eyeballing funds for developing charging-on-the-go systems embedded in roadways.

More About Eaton

This is a good opportunity to catch up on some of the other Eaton innovations we’ve been following, so here goes. In 2010, Eaton teamed up with Peterbilt to launch a new hybrid garbage truck that cut fuel consumption by 30 percent, using Eaton’s new Hydraulic Launch Assist technology. The system, designed for large vehicles that make frequent stops, stores the waste kinetic energy from braking in the form of pressurized hydraulic fluid. When the vehicle accelerates, the stored energy gives it an extra push. Aside from the potential for saving thousands of dollars annually on fuel, the system also saves a considerable amount of wear and tear on the vehicle. Last year, Eaton announced that it was partnering in a project funded by the Energy Department’s cutting edge ARPA-E division, with the goal of reducing the size of its battery for hybrid systems by 50 percent and increasing the charge rate (in other words, decreasing the charge time),  while improving the overall performance of the vehicle.

Since we’ve been invited to pay a visit to the Ford Motor Company later this week, let’s also note for the record that Eaton is a partner in Ford’s ambitious MyEnergi Lifestyle EV package, a solar-enabled system is designed to integrate electric vehicles into household energy use just like any other large household appliance (except for the speeding tickets). Now consider that Ford in turn recently partnered with the major home builder KB Home for its new ZeroHouse net zero model home for the mass market, and you can see how far and how fast the electric vehicle movement is going. Follow me on Twitter and Google+. Psst, wanna keep up with all the latest EV news from CleanTechnica? Subscribe to our Electric Vehicles newsletter.

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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Kieran Latty

    Clearly they are not compressing hydraulic fluid, but using the fluid to transmit energy to compress some gas (probably nitrogen) reservoir, as in an oil/gas shock absorber.

  • Jouni Valkonen

    It is always annoying when people make careless mistakes in basic science. Perhaps this is a nit-picking, but:

    mW = milliwatt
    MW = megawatt

  • rogerbedell

    The Eaton press release doesn’t say anything about inductive charging. Also, you might notice that all three cities mentioned are cities with Proterra buses on the way. http://www.proterra.com/index.php/proterrainaction/actionDetail/C19/ . Looks to me like Eaton has taken over making the chargers for Proterra. Therefore, they will most likely be conductive chargers with the robotic coupling system of Proterra, unless this has been changed also. A 1MW conductive system is not too hard. A 1MW inductive charger is extremely unlikely.

  • Wayne Williamson

    Just some fyi info, hydraulic fluid does not compress, that is why it is used in heavy machinery. I have no idea what these guys are pushing…..

  • JamesWimberley

    Neither this article nor the linked pres release provide any indication how this works.

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