Image provided by Endera/ Sheraton San Diego via YouTube

Electric Shuttle Buses, Wireless Charging, Autonomous Service: Next Steps In Support Transport

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The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week awarded nearly $900 million in rebates to help more than 500 school districts buy about 3,400 clean school buses — 92% of them electric. Electric buses and electric shuttle buses have enjoyed fast-growing adoption in recent years due to their potential benefits in abating local emissions, improving fuel economy, and reducing oil dependence.

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Electric Shuttle Buses Come to San Diego

Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina has stepped up its commitment to sustainability by adding 3 electric shuttle buses to its guest transportation fleet. With partner Endera, the new approach to providing airport and local attraction runs represents a solid step towards reducing carbon emissions and infusing another eco-friendly solution into the resort’s operations. With zero emissions, these shuttles not only prioritize environmental sustainability but also ensure a quieter and smoother ride for guests.

Endera’s electric shuttles are fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology and designed to meet the specific needs of Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. With decreased maintenance requirements and fully customized features, these shuttles are tailored to provide a VIP experience for guests while reducing operational costs for the resort.

Endera says this “vehicle is set to transform the transportation industry with its impressive range and charging capabilities, as well as its fully integrated software ecosystem.” As a technology company that specializes in smart electric specialty buses, charging stations, and software solutions, Endera provides vehicle design, manufacturing, and technology into its purpose-built vehicles. The electric vehicle company has a record of successes in shuttle and specialty needs school buses, and it has distinguished itself as the sole vertically integrated OEM in the US.

Made in the US, Endera’s electric shuttle buses deliver one of the lowest total costs of ownership over other comparable commercial electric vehicles. The company also provides sustainable solutions that rival its fossil fuel counterparts in price, technology, longevity, profitability, and service. Endera’s vehicles undergo extensive testing in diverse weather conditions and applications. This process ensures that each vehicle delivers optimal performance and exceeds customers’ expectations in reliability and efficiency.

To further elevate its guest transportation services, Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina is anticipating the arrival of another Endera Electric Shuttle unit, scheduled for delivery this summer.

Wired vs. Wireless Charging for Electric Shuttle Buses

The most optimal environmental impact for electric buses would be obtained if, instead of being charged with electricity from the national grid, they were to be charged at the 50% level from a photovoltaic (PV) plant. Such users could program customized percentages for the energy mix used to charge the product and can select the percentage of potential auto-produced energy through the PV panels.

That is an ideal scenario that is rarely duplicated in actual transportation practice. In fact, the unavailability of charging infrastructure when EVs are away from their home base poses a challenge, as described by Guo and team in a 2023 article in the Journal of Energy Storage. Their research interest revolves around wireless charging of electric shuttle buses.

Wired EV charging systems are a mature technology with set standards. These systems require a physical (ohmic) connection between EVs and the power grid through electric circuits, which consist of the ac-dc rectifier and dc-dc converters or a converter with power factor correction circuits directly from a low-frequency ac to a high-frequency ac.

Wireless power transfer technology enables EV charging while both in stationary status and in motion by installing wireless chargers underneath the ground surface.  Dynamic wireless charging (DWC) technology means charging the EV when it is in motion. Similar to static wireless charging technology, the power transition between power supply units and EVs relies on the magnetic coupling effect between the transmitter coils buried underground and the EV pick-up device. It does not require the EVs to stop and wait for charging. This technology is attractive as it solves current perceived EV problems such as range anxiety and battery cost.

To address the conflicts of limited space and time schedule and the avoidance of excessive battery weight and the associated costs, the wireless charging system becomes an appealing technology, the authors argue. Importantly, with dynamic wireless charging, battery weight could be significantly reduced.

Airfields Begin the Transition to Electric

Many airports are adopting battery-electric shuttle buses in their fleets due to concerns over air quality and regulations. An increasing number of commercial airports have added EVs to eliminate airfield ground emissions.

Of course, reliable charging infrastructures are necessary to facilitate the adoption of these electric fleets, as recharging battery e-buses usually takes much longer than refueling diesel buses at airport facilities.

However, airfield space is highly valued due to the intensity of airport movement. That means ground fleet mobility limitations need to be taken into account when planning for airport transportation electrification.

One solution is to build in frequent plug-ins and plug-outs, yet that option reduces the efficiency of airfield ground transportation. Shuttles cannot stop in the middle of tasks during peak hours in order to be recharged.

Stationary charging periods during non-operational times may seem sensible, yet that approach would require numerous battery installations so airfields can be assured of adequate charging for the full day’s demand.

Systematic integration of environmental considerations throughout the design life cycle of support electric shuttle buses can be very relevant. To design an ideal electric shuttle bus system, manufacturers and their airport partners must strategically determine the fleet size, the onboard battery capacity/driving range for the electric shuttle buses, and the needed charging infrastructure.

Moving Electric Shuttle Buses Toward Autonomy

Providing an affordable and efficient transport system is the goal of every service provider, where public or private. The integration of EVs, smart grids, and IoT technologies, using renewable energy resources towards green smart transportation, is all over the news. Newly labeled Industry 4.0, this trend is accentuating the computerization and automation of the supply chain.

It is reasonable to expect a transport system to be efficient while focusing on environmental protection and the needs of community members who require services. Improved battery technology and a growing acceptance EV transportation are significant drives toward public autonomous vehicle shuttle services.A fleet of shuttles can maintain more prolonged and dynamic operation hours if the costs and restrictions associated with manually driven vehicles are eliminated, according to Manuguerra and team as described in a May 2024 article in the Journal of Industrial Information Integration.

The adoption of autonomous electric vehicle shuttles has been due to the upsurge in the urban population and the congestion of existing resources and facilities. Autonomous electric vehicle shuttle service is an innovation that aims at improving traffic activities while also creating an environmentally friendly solution. These shuttles move autonomously at speeds lower than 50 miles per hour on pre-charted routes under remote-controlled surveillance.

Automated buses and shuttles are integrated into transport systems across different airports where time is fundamentally important. Most of the electric vehicles operating in the modern day produce less than half of the emissions of gas-powered vehicles. A fleet of shuttles can maintain more prolonged and dynamic operation hours if the costs and restrictions associated with manually driven vehicles are eliminated.


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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack: https://carolynfortuna.substack.com/.

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