New Flyer, an established manufacturer of electric buses, recently announced a new and improved electric bus. The Xcelsior CHARGE NG is lighter, more efficient, and has longer range than its previous buses.
“The Xcelsior CHARGE NG harnesses the best technology on the market. It includes a streamlined design that reduces maintenance, increases energy density, and improves energy recovery while significantly reducing weight – offering a lighter, more energy-efficient, and longer-range electric bus,” said Chris Stoddart, President, New Flyer, and MCI. “As EV demand continues to build, so too has our innovation. With better manufacturability, higher energy recovery, fewer parts, and improved system durability, our Xcelsior CHARGE NG is a high-performance bus that is more sustainable and easier to maintain.”
The new bus achieves all this with three technological improvements. First, the company put improved cells in the pack that would have increased range all by themselves. Second, the battery housings are lighter, but also allow for greater protection of the batteries and easier maintenance/replacement. Third, the company is using lighter EV drive components. Between all of this, it ends up with a bus that’s better in every way for the company’s customers.
“Millions of people count on us every day, whether for reaching their destinations or expecting the highest quality from our technology,” said Jennifer McNeill, Vice President of Public Sector Sales and Marketing. “This is why, alongside vehicle technology advancements, we have evolved our manufacturing and field services processes to ensure a safe, reliable, scalable approach to be ready for tomorrow’s growing electric bus demand today. In turn, we also enhanced training for our teams and those of transit agencies across North America; enabling EV adoption while supporting continuous workforce development to drive the new mobility era.”
This latest bus comes after a long line of great products from the company. New Flyer introduced the first low-floor transit bus in North America in 1991. The Xcelsior was developed on this established platform in 2009, including battery-electric and fuel cell versions. The company works alongside MCI to run the Vehicle Improvement Center, a facility where they develop new buses and train workforces to work with the vehicles.
This story is exciting because we are seeing electric buses mature. In 2009, the idea of an electric bus was a new and seemingly experimental thing. Cities bought one or two to dip their toes in the water, and/or to boost their public image. They found out that electric buses worked, and that they really could save not just the environment but money (at least in the long run). As they gained experience, sales started moving from a trickle to big sales.
The experience wasn’t without growing pains, though. Probably the worst example was Albuquerque’s attempt to create electric bus routes, where there were serious issues with the buses that led the mayor to pull the plug and buy “clean diesel” buses. Bad experiences with one manufacturer led many on the political right to claim that Albuquerque’s experience was normal for electric buses, when most other places had far better experiences. Despite the bad initial experience, the city eventually ended up buying electric buses.
Now, we’re seeing new generations of electric buses. The first generation buses have been a commercial success to the point where bus builders like New Flyer ended up working on a second generation. This makes it pretty clear that electric buses are not only here to stay, but have become a normal part of the builders’ operations and future planning (as opposed to being a limited, experimental program).
We can expect to see a lot more improvement and growth with electric buses in the future. Battery prices continue to fall while both companies and transit entities now have a decade or more of experience operating them.
New Sales to Spokane, Washington
The Spokane Transit Authority (STA) recently added 12 of the company’s existing Xcelsior CHARGE buses. While not the latest version that the company just announced, they’re still exciting because they’ll continue the state’s expansion of zero emission transit.
“Our partners at New Flyer have developed a sleek, modern, and customer-centric vehicle that also achieves our industry’s environmental objectives of transitioning to zero-emission buses,” said Brandon Rapez-Betty, STA’s Director of Communications and Customer Service. “As the marquee feature of Spokane’s first Bus Rapid Transit route, the City Line, we’ve worked together with New Flyer to build a distinct brand experience, both exterior, and interior, to appeal to the broadest audience of transit users we can. We look forward to introducing the City Line in 2022 as we begin to rebuild ridership in the post-pandemic era.”
The new 60-foot five-door buses will operate along STA’s new six mile Bus Rapid Transit (“BRT”) route serving the downtown area through to Spokane Community College. The aim is to revitalize the areas served by this route and to improve STA branding with highly recognizable vehicles. Obviously, one of the main goals is also to reduce emissions and operating costs.
“STA is moving quickly toward a sustainable future. We have innovated alongside STA for over 20 years, and today we shift toward zero-emission buses with five-door entry and exit capability,” said Chris Stoddart, President, New Flyer and MCI. “STA can offer ADA accessible boarding at every door and will leverage our SmartRider technology for intelligent leveling of the bus. In addition, the BRT buses can support multimodal journeys through multiple interior bike racks. As Spokane grows, we will continue providing efficient and clean mobility that not only improves air quality, but also enhances the passenger experience and builds more livable communities.”
I know some readers might feel like they’re being flooded with stories about electric buses. It seems like every week there’s a new story about more electric buses going into service for cities all over the world. These are worth following because many places don’t have electric buses yet, and the places that do tend to not have that many yet. Given the size of the vehicles, what they’re replacing, and how many people are being moved (at least at rush hour), these seemingly minor bus stories have a bigger impact than appears at first glance.
Featured image provided by New Flyer.