Electric buses on urban routes started in 2018 in Wenatchee, Washington. That may not sound groundbreaking, but the special thing about it is Link Transit also chose wireless charging for those buses.
According to Momentum Dynamics, which provided the wireless charging solutions, the choice was made in part due to the high efficiency of its system. The key selling point, naturally, is this allowed an electric bus to drive with essentially unlimited range thanks to automatic opportunity charging along the bus’s route. While stopping for passengers, the buses were collecting energy as well.
The news now is that 50 MWh of energy have now been transmitted wirelessly for these electric buses in Wenatchee, Washington.
Momentum notes that even during the cold 2019–2020 winter weather, a Wenatchee bus featuring the wireless system ran a 14-hour scheduled route and maintained its battery charge above 90% the whole way through the journey.
For any of us normal electric vehicle (electric car) drivers, that sounds a bit stunning — a 14-hour trip without charging and you stay over 90% the whole time.
This could be a key solution for quicker adoption of electric bus fleets. Working as an error-free system, the vehicles have a range effectively exceeding even diesel buses. The buses return to the depot with an almost full battery and in turn need much less charging overnight. It follows that the depot’s electricity demand causes much less stress on the electric utility as well.
“We are delighted to have reached such a significant milestone as we work to keep our customers satisfied and make the air and streets of the Wenatchee area cleaner,” said Richard DeRock of Link Transit. “This faultless system has allowed us to easily deploy an electric bus on a route that would otherwise have been very challenging for a depot-only charged vehicle.”
Momentum describes that the system can be installed within the street pavement or on a garage floor, with the automatic system invisible at the point of charging. The system is quiet as well.
The unobtrusive, space-saving qualities are a key to the well-being of urban dwellers and their cities. No clutter, no extra noise. In fact, reduced noise thanks to the quiet electric powertrains of electric buses.
“Wireless charging makes fleet management very efficient because the system delivers increased range and eliminates the need for a depot full of cables and chargers, all of which are subject to wear and tear and creates a hazardous condition for workers,” noted Andy Daga, CEO of Momentum Dynamics, pitching his company to the public of course. “It is the most cost-effective charging system for fleets available today.”
People often raise concerns about efficiency when it comes to wireless charging systems — they often aren’t as efficient as a cable when it comes to transferring electricity. However, there’s also efficiency to consider with regards to worker time, safety protocols, maintenance of frequently used and moved tools.
Opportunity charging so that electric vehicles can stay in service without driving range restrictions seems like the future of mobility, and the present in Wenatchee. It follows that the fleets will also need fewer buses to satisfy their route demands, again providing a financial efficiency bonus.
“Following this successful program, Link Transit now plans route expansion and will add 10 new electric buses to its fleet in 2020. All buses will be fitted with Momentum Dynamics’ wireless charging receivers and Momentum will provide 3 additional on-route charging stations, each capable of delivering 300 kW.”
Wireless charging for electric vehicles has been a hot item of debate for many years, but there is no denying that it is moving forward in some locations. As long as the results look positive and help the bottom line, I think we should expect that progress to continue.
What do you think of wireless electric vehicle charging — especially wireless electric bus charging — these days? What do you think of this Momentum Dynamics trial in Washington? Is the era of wireless electric bus charging arriving at last?