Clean Transport Utah state University invents wirelessly charged electric bus

Published on November 16th, 2012 | by Tina Casey


First-Of-Its-Kind Wireless Electric Bus Of The Future Debuts In Utah

November 16th, 2012 by  

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.

Utah state University invents wirelessly charged electric bus

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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About the Author

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+.

  • JMin2020

    Thanks for the post Tina. Now we are getting somewhere. I just posted in the BMWi Hackathon that this wireless charging needs to be extended to the EV and HEV power the home and grid when the driver gets home from work. This will work well to mitigate the Summer and Winter Power Crundhes due to AC and Reverse Heat Exchange Heating in newer and smarter buildings and homes. I’m sure the APPS Geeks will work it out for everyone.

  • Adam Devereaux

    I’m curious what the cost difference would be at full production versus fossil fuel buses and hybrid buses. Obviously there would be a cost to creating the charging stations as well. But one route could be overhauled at a time. Any idea if the charge pads have to be sunk into the ground or if they can lay on top of the pavement? Or at least be set into the top layer.

    Obviously the battery technology is available now, but total charge lifecycles may be holding back these being cost effective. You’d want to size the pack as such that you are only using 30% of the pack for longevity and emergency use.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You might want to watch this video about an electric bus that has been in service for over a year in LA. It uses overhead charging which might make more sense in places that have snow and snowplows.

      I’m guessing that a lot more than 30% capacity is used. EVs take their lithium batteries a lot lower.

      In full production I would expect electric buses to be cheaper than diesel. Think of all the different parts in an internal combustion engine. Each of those parts has to be carefully manufactured and assembled. Batteries are just containers with chemicals in them. The video points out the less amount of maintenance, including brakes lasting many times longer than in ICE buses.

    • Thomas

      My business can drastically reduce all cost up to 100%


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