In-Motion Charging

While electric cars remain a niche technology, electric buses are surging. Some are battery-electric (this is popular in China, and some North American agencies are also buying into this technology), but in Europe what’s growing is in-motion charging, or IMC. This is a hybrid of a trolleybus and a battery-electric bus (BEB): the bus runs under wire, but has enough battery to operate off-wire for a little while, and in addition has some mechanism to let the bus recharge during the portion of its trip that is electrified.

One vendor, Kiepe, lists recent orders. Esslingen is listed as having 10 km of off-wire capability and Geneva (from 2012) as having 7. Luzern recently bought double-articulated Kiepe buses with 5 km of off-wire range, and Linz bought buses with no range specified but of the same size and battery capacity as Luzern’s. Iveco does not specify what its range is, but says its buses can run on a route that’s 25-40% unwired.

Transit planning should be sensitive to new technology in order to best integrate equipment, infrastructure, and schedule. Usually this triangle is used for rail planning, but there’s every reason to also apply it to buses as appropriate. This has a particular implication to cities that already have large trolleybus networks, like Vancouver, but also to cities that do not. IMC works better in some geographies than others; where it works, it is beneficial for cities to add wire as appropriate for the deployment of IMC buses.

Vancouver: what to do when you’re already wired

Alert reader and blog supporter Alexander Rapp made a map of all trolleybus routes in North America. They run in eight cities: Boston, Philadelphia, Dayton, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Mexico City, Guadalajara.

Vancouver’s case is the most instructive, because, like other cities in North America, it runs both local and rapid buses on its trunk routes. The locals stop every about 200 meters, the rapids every kilometer. Because conventional trolleybuses cannot overtake other trolleybuses, the rapids run on diesel even on wired routes, including Broadway (99), 4th Avenue (44, 84), and Hastings (95, 160), which are in order the three strongest bus corridors in the area. Broadway has so much ridership that TransLink is beginning to dig a subway under its eastern half; however, the opening of the Broadway subway will not obviate the need for rapid buses, as it will create extreme demand for nonstop buses from the western end of the subway at Arbutus to the western end of the corridor at UBC.

IMC is a promising technology for Vancouver, then, because TransLink can buy such buses and then use their off-wire capability to overtake locals. Moreover, on 4th Avenue the locals and rapids take slightly different routes from the western margin of the city proper to campus center, so IMC can be used to let the 44 and 84 reach UBC on their current route off-wire. UBC has two separate bus loops, one for trolleys and one for diesel buses, and depending on capacity IMC buses could use either.

On Hastings the situation is more delicate. The 95 is not 25-40% unwired, but about 60% unwired – and, moreover, the unwired segment includes a steep mountain climb toward SFU campus. The climb is an attractive target for electrification because of the heavy energy consumption involved in going uphill: at 4 km, not electrifying it would brush up against the limit of Kiepe’s off-wire range, and may well exceed it given the terrain. In contrast, the 5 km in between the existing wire and the hill are mostly flat, affording the bus a good opportunity to use its battery.

Where to add wire

In a city without wires, IMC is the most useful when relatively small electrification projects can impact a large swath of bus routes. This, in turn, is most useful when one trunk splits into many branches. Iveco’s requirement that 60-75% of the route run under wire throws a snag, since it’s much more common to find trunks consisting of a short proportion of each bus route than ones consisting of a majority of route-length. Nonetheless, several instructive examples exist.

In Boston, the buses serving Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury have the opportunity to converge to a single trunk on Washington Street, currently hosting the Silver Line. Some of these buses furthermore run on Warren Street farther south, including the 14, 19, 23, and 28, the latter two ranking among the MBTA’s top bus routes. The area has poor air quality and high rates of asthma, making electrification especially attractive.

Setting up wire on Washington and Warren Streets and running the Silver Live as open BRT, branching to the south, would create a perfect opportunity for IMC. On the 28 the off-wire length would be about 4.5 km each way, at the limit of Kiepe’s capability, and on the 19 and 23 it would be shorter; the 14 would be too long, but is a weaker, less frequent route. If the present-day service pattern is desired, the MBTA could still electrify to the northern terminus of these routes at Ruggles, but it would miss an opportunity to run smoother bus service.

In New York, there are examples of trunk-and-branch bus routes in Brooklyn and Queens. The present-day Brooklyn bus network has a long interlined segment on lower Fulton, carrying not just the B25 on Fulton but also the B26 on Halsey and B52 on Gates, and while Eric Goldwyn’s and my plan eliminates the B25, it keeps the other two. The snag is that the proportion of the system under wire is too short, and the B26 has too long of a tail (but the B52 and B25 don’t). The B26 could get wire near its outer terminal, purposely extended to the bus depot; as bus depots tend to be polluted, wire there is especially useful.

More New York examples are in Queens. Main Street and the Kissena-Parsons corridor, both connecting Flushing with Jamaica, are extremely strong, interlining multiple buses. Electrifying these two routes and letting buses run off-wire on tails to the north, reaching College Point and perhaps the Bronx on the Q44 with additional wiring, would improve service connecting two of Queens’ job centers. Moreover, beyond Jamaica, we see another strong trunk on Brewer Boulevard, and perhaps another on Merrick (interlining with Long Island’s NICE bus).

Finally, Providence has an example of extensive interlining to the north, on North Main and Charles, including various 5x routes (the map is hard to read, but there are several routes just west of the Rapid to the north).

IMC and grids

The examples in New York, Providence, and Boston are, not coincidentally, ungridded. This is because IMC interacts poorly with grids, and it is perhaps not a coincidence that the part of the world where it’s being adopted the most has ungridded street networks. A bus grid involves little to no interlining: there are north-south and east-west arterials, each carrying a bus. The bus networks of Toronto, Chicago, and Los Angeles have too little interlining for IMC to be as cost-effective as in New York or Boston.

In gridded cities, IMC is a solution mainly if there are problematic segments, in either direction. If there’s a historic core where wires would have adverse visual impact, it can be left unwired. If there’s a steep segment with high electricity consumption, it should be wired preferentially, since the cost of electrification does not depend on the street’s gradient.

Overall, this technology can be incorporated into cities’ bus design. Grids are still solid when appropriate, but in ungridded cities, trunks with branches are especially attractive, since a small amount of wire can convert an entire swath of the city into pollution-free bus operation.


  1. Untangled

    In motion charging for battery electric buses would only really be good if you already have existing infrastructure like trolley wires. For every else, something like a bus version of Alstom’s SRS or CAF’s Freedrive static (non-moving) super-rapid or flash charging technology at stops would be better.

    Or if you want to go fancy with induction charging, you can go with Bombardier’s Primove.

    • Untangled

      Or you could just put in a battery that’s designed to last the whole day although it can be quite heavy so I can understand why they would not want to do it.

      • Max Wyss

        The power requirement of the charging stations with Overnight Charging is highest of all compared systems. It may not be thaat bad if you have a dozen vehicles, but what happens if your garage is home for 250 vehicles?

        And, the deadweight of the vehicles increases considerably (battery weight of a very good IMC battery trolleybus: 1 ton; battery weight of a “pure” battery bus: 5 tons or more).

      • Ernest Tufft

        San Francisco has quite extensive fully electric bus system with overhead wire, but no battery busses, in many parts of the city. With modification of existing system, and replacement with battery busses, I’ll bet the city could eliminate the diesel burner hybrids that go into neighborhoods without overhead wires.

    • Max Wyss

      The issue with Opportunity Charging (a few minutes at end stops) or Flash Charging (a few seconds at several stops) is that the charging station needs to have a very high power rating (and will consume that power during the charging). This requires bigger and more expensive charging stations, and in many cases additional middle voltage lines to the charging stations (something which may become expensive in an urban environment). This is independent on whether the vehicle runs on rails or on rubber tyres. In addition, more battery capacity means more deadweight of the vehicle.

      In particular with heavy duty lines (frequent 18 m or longer buses (4 to 7.5 minute intervals)), it is cheaper to string up wires at strategically right places (grades, joint lines) than set up fast chargers.

      • Untangled

        Yes you need lots of power in bursts but the price of these fast charging technologies should come down as it matures (it’s still very, very early – I imagine early battery buses had challenges too) so that it can compete with trolleybuses. Once you have that figured out, it should be competitive with trolley wires and more attractive too. You won’t need to deal with complaints about ugly wires, the occasional de-wiring or maintenance of wires across a corridor. With this, you only need to maintain the stops. But let’s see, I’m not ready to rule this technology out yet.

        • Eric

          I think it’s more likely that the price of fully-battery buses comes down, and whatever investment you have in infrastructure along the route is wasted…

          • Untangled

            If the price of fully-battery buses that lasts a whole day comes down, which I think will happen not going to say no there, the infrastructure along the route would still be useful as it can be used to reduce the size and weight of the batteries instead of needing one to last the whole day. This applies to both Fast Charging and In motion charging of the type described in the article.

          • Ernest Tufft

            No, not really because keeping busses rolling day and night is important. There’s wasted time at charge station. Might be better to charge while vehicle is in use.

        • Eric Doherty (@Eric_Doherty)

          “as it matures (it’s still very, very early” Exactly. And we have a climate crisis requiring a 12 year sprint to bring GHG pollution down dramatically. So do you depend on unproven technology in the first three years of this sprint, or use proven technology that works now? Experts looking at busy bus routes in Berlin and Stockholm say battery trolleybus is the only practical technology available (any stationary charging tech requires a lot more buses and a lot more money).

          • Untangled

            To be quite frank, I expect most emissions reductions right now to be in non- transport sectors. So yes I’m quite happy to have some slack here. I don’t expect every industry to decrease their emissions at the same rate over time, some will have to more earlier than others. I mean, what’s the solution for aviation?

            You’re also assuming that 25-40% of all bus routes can be wired in just three years there, I personally doubt that. Agencies are continuing to order diesel buses, so much for a sprint.

            That said, you’re in Vancouver which has bus trolley wires anyway, but the story for most other cities are not quite the same.

          • Michael James

            There are assumptions built into all these arguments that don’t have to apply to big fleets of vehicles, especially buses where the economics and usage patterns are very different to other vehicles. Two alternatives are 1. swappable battery units and 2. flow batteries in which the two electrolytes can be swapped (pumped) in minutes. The exhausted batteries or electrolytes are recharged at leisure. This does require more redundancy, ie. more battery units or electrolyte equivalent but nothing like double. In any case the cost of this infrastructure is nothing compared to the cost of either overhead wire or in-ground charging-rail, as seen in the ridiculous and continuing saga of cost-overruns in building the Sydney George street light-rail.

          • Untangled

            1. You’ll need to build swapping stations across the city, at that rate, you might as well go with fast charging. Otherwise, you need to send it back to be the depot for swaps, which makes it not much better than some CNG buses today which needs to be refuelled quite frequently compared to diesel buses. 2. Flow batteries seem like a new technology, very new, I think we’re more likely to see true solid-state lithium batteries (which are 3x denser than current lithium batteries, I could see this battery tech making full all day battery buses much more viable btw) coming to market before flow batteries happen. And I’m not sure how dense this flow battery liquid is, if it isn’t too dense then you’ll need refuelling stations across the city that are probably even more complex than fast charging infrastructure, in which case you might as well go with fast charging, all day battery electric buses (once the solid state thing happens) or dare I say in motion charging of the type described here.

            There’s a lot of research into battery and charging, which is good, but only a few will ultimately win. We’re pretty much in an electric transport format war that’s only just getting started at the moment and it will take years for the war to settle. Current lithium batteries are leading as we transition but they have lots of shortcomings and will ultimately be replaced. That said, as you say, a lot of the arguments for these technologies are based on assumptions and lots of things will change.

          • Eric

            The only way to rapidly decrease carbon emissions, without massively impacting people’s standard of living, is to rapidly build nuclear power plants.

            New transit lines will take 12 years, give or take, to even come into service. And then they will only have a marginal impact on carbon emissions. In the average US city only a few % people use transit now. Building enough transit to double that number, or electrifying existing transit to eliminate its emissions, will only affect emissions by the same few %.

            In the longer term, emissions could be significantly reduced by massively increasing density in the largest cities, but that would be a project of many decades, even if there were the will for it. Similarly wind and solar buildout are the project of multiple decades, not one.

          • adirondacker12800

            Nuclear costs too much compared to wind/PV and batteries.

          • Eric

            Nuclear is really cheap, except for the hysteria about it which forces many years of bureaucracy and design changes throughout construction and so on.

            Just dust off the nuclear plans from the 1960s and build them unchanged, with no environmental review. Either that, or die from climate change. That’s the choice.

            Renewable/batteries cannot be ramped up in time.

          • adirondacker12800

            The steel furnaces and cement kilns don’t care if you are going to use it or nuclear plants or windmills. If you can’t ramp up wind and solar you can’t ramp up nuclear either. And it costs too much. Utilities are closing them down, they cost too much to run, much less build.

          • Michael James

            Eric, 2018/12/12 – 02:04
            Renewable/batteries cannot be ramped up in time.

            Adirondacker beat me to it, and he’s right. And each of your points is the opposite of reality.
            Even with all China’s efforts by 2030 nuclear would still only represent about 6% of their grid. If they can manage to scale up further it would still be under 10% by 2050. It simply cannot keep pace with the need.

            China remains the largest investor with US$78 billion, doubled its solar capacity to a cumulated 78 GW and added 20 GW of wind power capacity to reach just under 150 GW in total, more than all of Europe combined. This compares with China’s addition of 4.6 GW of nuclear capacity in 2016 to reach a total of 32 GW. … In China, as in every year since 2012, electricity production from wind alone (241 TWh), exceeded that from nuclear (198 TWh) in 2016.

            And the massive drain on resources (cement & steel) is a serious limitation on the rate they can be built. I won’t even go into the water demands that is a perpetual problem for China.
            But most of all is your last statement. In fact it is renewables and storage that can be ramped up, on a genuine industrial scale. Soon every house built in California will have mandated solar-PV and solar-HW. These things are made in factories and can be installed in no time at and start producing power almost as soon as someone has paid for them. For nuclear, even in the most efficient countries it is billions of dollars for each nuclear plant that has to be financed for at least 5 years (and in China they still run into similar delays as the west).

          • Eric

            China is not making major efforts in nuclear.

            If you want to see a major nuclear effort, look at France. The massive French nuclear program was announced in 1974 (as a response to the 1973 oil crisis). By 1989, French electricity production excluding hydroelectric was about 88% nuclear and 12% fossil fuel (compared to almost 100% fossil fuel previously). So yes, you can indeed replace the vast majority of your fossil fuel electricity with nuclear electricity in a decade or so, rather easily.

            (Data from )

            The resources (concrete, steel, etc) needed for nuclear are much less than the resources needed for renewables, because the energy density is so much higher for nuclear. If there are insufficient resources to fully build out nuclear, then there are insufficient resources for even a tiny amount of renewables.

            China has a mild shortage of potable water, but a long coastline with virtually unlimited water. If there’s enough water in California or Arizona for nuclear, and there is, then there’s certainly enough water in China.

            Nuclear construction and operating costs vary widely by country (depending on the degree of NIMBY/anti-science hysteria). That said, even at most expensive end of the range, they are very very cheap compared to the destruction of civilization due to climate change.

          • adirondacker12800

            How many megawatts of windmill are there in the concrete and steel it takes to build a nuclear plant? Doing it with all wind may not be a good idea because solar panels and batteries can be scattered all around the grid. How many windmills and solar panels? If you are slapping the PV on existing buildings it doesn’t need much concrete.

            The people making windmills didn’t get your memo about how they can’t ramp up production and did anyway. Same thing for the people making solar panels. The ones making batteries too. Prices continue to drop faster than the optimists were predicting. If the alternatives cost less than nuclear, nuclear costs too much.

          • Michael James

            Eric, 2018/12/12 – 11:31

            Yes, I am a big admirer of France’s nuclear power–I lived a nuclear-powered life there for a long time, as Alon does now But it is simplistic to transpose what France did, in an unprecedented bit of nation-building that carried risks, over 4 to 5 decades ago, to today or tomorrow.
            France made its grid >80% nuclear but it took 20 years and it is one 25th the size of China and proportionately has more water resources. Not to mention France was a much richer country (still is).
            But perhaps more relevant is that today, France is aiming to replace 50% of its nuclear with other renewables, especially as its first-gen nuclear approaches retirement. China can’t match this, and its first-build nukes will be up for retirement before it gets anywhere near the same contribution (which it can’t anyway due to water). And that pinpoints the problem, even if it could emulate France–but of necessity over a longer period, say 30-50 years, it would be all too late.

            Your argument about concrete and steel is not correct either. Not just because those guesstimates that claim wind and solar use more of these resources (as Adirondacker said), but also because of the factor I mentioned earlier: time. Those masses of concrete and steel are deployed quite early in the build of a nuclear power station, and thus represent a gigantic sunk cost for most of the project’s life, ie. until eventually they start becoming productive. There’s a sneaky reason why nuclear power now has the habit of citing costs as OCC (Overnight Construction Costs) but as Einstein reputedly said, the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest. All around the world there are graveyards of that concrete and steel in abandoned nukes, most recently the two AP1000s at Vogtle in Georgia, US, stopped in August last year. The record (so far) is for Watts Bar Tennessee which was begun in the late 70s, abandoned in 1988, then construction restarted in 2007 and finally completed February last year. A nation, even one as centrally directed as China (but perhaps especially China which still has to marshall its resources), cannot have such resources diverted from other projects, and sitting idle, unless the payoff is truly enormous. That requirement was satisfied by the Three Gorges Dam as it is the world’s largest source of green energy (as well as flood mitigation, and navigation aid for the Yangtze). On so many counts, not nuclear.

          • Eric

            1) “For the same amount of electricity produced, windmills require 50 times more steel and 60 times more concrete than nuclear reactors”
            See analysis here:

            2) China now has about the same level of wealth per capita that France did in the 1970s. So Chinese poverty is not an obstacle.

            3) China is much bigger than France, which means it needs to build more power, but also means that it has many more resources with which to build that power. The power need per capita is about the same. So China’s size is not an obstacle.

            4) People have tried to ramp up renewables, and failed. After 25 years of Germany trying to ramp up renewables, with vast subsidies, they form barely 1/3 of German electricity production. Meanwhile France, when it was much poorer, ramped up nuclear to >70% of electricity in just 15 years. Needless to say electricity prices are much lower in France than Germany.

            5) Human beings have not gotten stupider since the 1970s. If it was possible to build nuclear plants quickly and cheaply then, it’s also possible now. The only difference between now and then is the greater level of anti-science hysteria which interferes with building and running new nuclear plants. Since nuclear is the only viable way of getting carbon emissions under control quickly, anyone who cares about climate change should dedicate themselves to fighting this hysteria.

          • Michael James

            Eric, 2018/12/13 – 03:25

            1) wind turbine …50 times more steel and 60 times more concrete

            As usual the data is highly skewed to obtain that figure. It uses the highest power nuclear plant, the 1600MW EPR: first, none are operational (the Finnish Olkiluoto EPR is currently expected to open Jan 2020) and this is very atypical of nukes most of which are closer, or less, than 1000MW (the EPR is designed to be more efficient in all respects including its construction relative to power produced, so another distortion); second, they use a life of 60 years for the EPR but a derisory 15y for wind turbines; the biggest concrete item is the giant ground plate which is also where so many problems are experienced (it must pass those horrible and irrelevant safety tests you so dislike, before the next stage) however I don’t know how much additional concrete and steel these common problems waste. In reality, instead of taking an entirely theoretical nuclear plant (none operating anywhere!) it should use an average of all those built, and this would include all the abandoned ones and the actual power they have delivered to the grid; you have to include all the materials in failures like the two Vogtle plants and the dozens that have been abandoned around the world. third, that table claims a 2MW turbine uses 150 tons of steel and 1000 tonnes of concrete but a 1.5MW turbine uses 26 tonnes steel (one sixth) and 450 tonnes concrete (about half); while bigger turbines and higher towers are used I can’t see this being anything remotely like a factor of 6. (This kind of exaggeration and cherry-picking is why people dismiss these kinds of claims that are only deployed by people who are nuclear advocates and/or anti-wind fanatics.)

            Now, even with more realistic real-world figures I would agree that in principle nuclear might still outperform wind (though note that we’re talking wind and solar-PV, solar-thermal, and PHES) but nothing like the claimed 50x. Another false assumption is that all that steel and concrete in a wind turbine is useless at the point the turbine reaches its end-of-life (which assuredly is well beyond 15 years), but of course the thing that wears out is the turbine and it can be replaced on top of the support and its concrete base. It may well be happening already because the field has advanced a lot (for example that calculation uses a 2MW turbine but they are now up to 7.5MW). Having said that there are very similar turbines in hydro and tidal generators that have been in continuous operation for 60 to approaching a century; these lifespan estimates for wind are silly and the very long lifespan for nuclear is equally unrealistic –required by the bean-counters to prove they are economic). In engineering terms these structures are most comparable to steel and concrete bridges and so we should expect a life of at least a century (but really much more even with less maintenance) so there is another factor of at least 6. This is absolutely not the case for nuclear where it is the opposite: at end-of-life these gigantic things have to be expensively dismantled or at the least protected … for thousands of years. Even if a wind turbine is demolished its steel will be reused.

            2) China now has about the same level of wealth per capita that France did in the 1970s.

            Nonsense. France has always been one of the richest countries in the world, while today China’s pc GDP is 79th. More than those simplistic figures, France was already a developed country while China is still a developing country (something like one third, almost half a billion people, remain impoverished rural peasants).

            3) China … size.
            China’s size is an issue. It’s why they have such huge pollution and eco problems. Unless you think their problems are on the same scale as France’s?

            4) People have tried to ramp up renewables, and failed.

            Read my earlier comment that shows China (and the world) are building much more wind power each year than nuclear. Solar is where the future action will be for the simple reason that there is plenty of further potential in cost and efficiency and implementation (soon they will be printed on any appropriate surface like building windows, car roofs etc). Despite all the promises and blather about 4th-gen nuclear, the most-built plant (AP1000) is an update of a design from the 60s. We’ve had 60s of over-promises and under-delivery. Eric, just how much more evidence do you need?

            Further, there is the time factor that I wrote about earlier. Wind turbines use small amounts of steel and concrete at a steady rate, and very shortly after installation, the turbine is supplying energy to the grid (and earning money back), while nuclear needs humungous amounts in short time periods (despite their long completion history–the pad for a reactor is the biggest concrete pour in construction, or anything) and takes years (sometimes decades) before it starts delivering power and earning back its cost; and of course many never reach that stage at all.

            BTW, please remember I am not anti-nuclear; I support France’s EPR program–but that is not incompatible with their plan for 50% renewables. I believe Japan should keep most of its best reactors in service (though it needs to gets its act together). I support China’s nuclear program, but I don’t kid myself that it could ever be anything other than a modest contribution to their power requirements (and certainly in the timescale required).

          • Eric

            1) Hidden in your 540 word essay, you admit that nuclear uses vastly less resources than renewables. You just quibble over whether the ratio is 50 to 1 or, say, 10 to 1.

            2) China has about the same per capita income now that France did in the 1970s. So it has the same capacity to build things. It’s irrelevant whether elsewhere in the world there are countries wealthier than the countries in question.

            3) China’s size is why it’s critical for them to switch to nuclear. That’s the only way that size is relevant.

            4) China is making a bad decision to prioritize renewables over nuclear. Yes, there is anti-nuclear hysteria in China too.

            5) France also has anti-nuclear hysteria, which is why they keep talking about closing nuclear – at some point long after the current politicians are out of office. The politicians themselves are smart enough to know that nuclear can’t be closed, but as long as the closing date is perpetually 20 years in the future, they can say they are closing nuclear without actually doing it. Now, maybe 50 years from now it will be possible to close nuclear in favor of renewables, without burning more coal like Germany did. But we’re talking about the effects of climate change in the next 10-15 years, not 50 years from now.

          • Alon Levy

            In China the moral panic is partly because the government lies about environmental issues so much that nobody trusts it on that matter anymore. For the same reason, plans to extend the Shanghai maglev train ran into NIMBY opposition, which pointed out that the government’s plans had less separation between the guideway and nearby apartment buildings than was recommended in the German guidelines of the technology, and went on to raise specious concerns about radiation.

          • Michael James

            Eric, 2018/12/13 – 09:03
            1) Hidden in your 540 word essay, you admit that nuclear uses vastly less resources than renewables. You just quibble over whether the ratio is 50 to 1 or, say, 10 to 1.

            You are quite correct. On your first point, yes unfortunately it takes a lot more words and effort to dismiss a specious and undocumented claim, with actual verifiable facts, than to make it (or link to any specious junk on the interwebs). On your second, then you admit your cited reference is simply untrustworthy. Why should we even believe it is a factor of two when it is certainly easily proved the claim of 60x is out by at least an order of magnitude? And at what point is it more rational to choose renewables? Your failure to address the substantive issues means you lost this argument by default.

            You haven’t actually made any plausible case for China putting all its (limited) resource eggs into the nuclear basket. Unlike France (or Germany, or Denmark …) China has vast solar and wind resources (and to a certain extent, hydro) and its engineer-politicians know this and are exploiting it. Especially as these don’t require using up their exceeding precious and limited water resources; China is one of the world’s most water-constrained countries; it’s why they built the first version of the Grand Canal 1500 years ago, and its modern incarnation as part of the Three Gorges Dam.

            Re the other points, essentially no. In inflation-adjusted real-world terms China is by no means a rich country. It has a political system and the will to direct its resources in particular directions. Adirondacker says it can afford to build nuclear but actually I don’t think it could either afford to, or could do it given the constraints I and others have described. Also, to a very large extent it is building its country by debt financing (which is giving western economists conniptions), some say it has 300% (others even more than 400%) of sovereign debt to GDP. Anyway part of Chinese strategy appears to be to place bets across the many possibilities, then see which emerge as dominant by whatever criteria one applies. We are seeing evolution on a grand scale, and in energy most can see which way it is trending (and any less than superficial analysis of nuclear power status leads there).

          • adirondacker12800

            The Chinese can afford nuclear reactors. They are going with the cheaper option and building renewables at rates wild eyed optimists find surprising. The economics have shifted radically in the past few years, catch up. That’s not as much fun as bad numbers from 2007, you want to cling to them go right ahead. The rest of us will go with the cheaper options.

        • Michael James

          Untangled, 2018/12/11 – 05:47
          “1. You’ll need to build swapping stations across the city, at that rate ..”

          A city’s bus routes usually converge at a few nodes so not really. At least CNG provides sufficient energy, but it is clear that batteries really struggle to run full size city buses (and the buses are getting bigger: triple-articulated monsters are more and more common) on the usual long routes which are not optimised for hills. Obviously this is why the IMC is being developed… because all the calculations show it is going to be a long time before battery tech and economics allow long uninterrupted operation solely by battery.

          “2. Flow batteries seem like a new technology, very new …”

          Not really. Clearly it is not getting the same R&D effort Li-ion is getting but plenty of actual techs and engineers believe vanadium-flow batteries are the future for some applications, and that focus is on bigger power requirements and robustness (they can be cycled infinitely unlike Li-ion, and under deep discharge conditions).

          Redflow ships “biggest” battery order for Fiji digital TV roll-out
          Sophie Vorrath, 12 July 2018

          Redflow said on Wednesday that the $US1.2 million order from New Zealand-based Hitech Solutions would see between five and 60 ZBM2 batteries [up to 300kWh] installed at more than 10 sites in Fiji, many of which have no access to the country’s electricity grid.
          The ZBM2 batteries – manufactured at Redflow’s new plant in Thailand – were chosen for the project for their “robustness, long life, safety, temperature tolerance and straightforward recycling process,” Hitech said.
          “The primary need was for a robust design with a long service life,” said Hitech chief technology officer Derek Gaeth. “We considered both lithium and lead-acid based batteries, but many sites are in remote locations with difficult access.
          “Lead-acid has too short a service life and is very bulky in the limited space we have. We save 40 tonnes of battery weight by choosing Redflow’s zinc-bromine flow batteries. Lithium performance degrades over time and would struggle with the heat and our desire to run batteries without any cooling, even on days that are hotter than 30°C.

          “refuelling stations across the city that are probably even more complex than fast charging infrastructure”

          No. No reason why they’d be much different. And since they don’t require fast charging (which requires HV, often three-phase power) they are actually simpler to install wherever you want.
          Note also, that the long life of flow batteries is more appropriate to bigger vehicles like buses and trucks because they have a much longer life (buses about 25 years IIRC) and also are more demanding than private cars (load, hours of service, duty cycle, etc). As the failed (so far) BYD experiment in LA shows (see comment by Reedman Bosman, below).
          Having said all that, I don’t know if flow-batteries are up to the job though they seem better candidates than Li-ion for such heavy-duty applications. So far the focus appears to be on big static applications.

          • Untangled

            1. I get your point about nodes and I get that existing batteries are not sufficient for all day usage but nodes are often in high-density areas without much space to put in a swapping station. You’ll also need much more surface space for a battery swap station than fast charging equipment, you can’t really do this at nodes. And you’ll only be using the swapping station for midday off-peak, which will make it underutilised for most of the day which is not ideal at a node, I can’t imagine any bus swapping batteries during the peak and they can do it at the depot overnight.

            2. Ok that’s nice, clearly I haven’t been following this tech as much.

            3. The problem with flow isn’t so much that it doesn’t require large on-site power equipment like fast charging, it’s that you need to get the liquid there. That’s the hard part. You’ll need to have pipelines that pump it there, which would probably be more expensive to power delivery using wires since you can’t piggyback off some existing technology, or you’ll need to get someone to come around every day to take in and out the liquid, again this is not quite as easy or cheap as delivering powering using wires to a static charging stations.

            That said, I don’t think these problems are not solvable but finding solutions will be challenging compared with static charging or all day battery buses using future denser battery tech, I mean car battery swapping company Better Place went backrupt.

        • Michael James

          Untangled, 2018/12/11 – 21:14
          3. The problem with flow isn’t so much that it doesn’t require large on-site power equipment like fast charging, it’s that you need to get the liquid there. That’s the hard part.

          I think you misunderstand. The only thing transporting liquid (electrolytes) is the bus. The “filling” station is also (statically) recharging the depleted electrolytes it swaps with the buses. So come on, it is not really that difficult. My only concession to your defeatist attitude is that in Australia (and the Anglosphere in general) we do tend to turn mole-hills into mountains, such as the multi-billion dollar trackbed for the new tram down a few km of George Street (eyerolls into back of head ….) which has never been explained in anything I’ve read. (Hmm, is it a wirefree system, and can that account for the stupid cost/difficulties??)

          Better Place went bankrupt because of its business model, which was half scam. As if the concept was anything that special (it wasn’t), and it tried to license and lease such ‘systems’ (to be built by someone else) to cities etc. and IIRC continue to earn megabuck rents into the future. Battery swapping for private vehicles also has different issues compared to a single organisation running a big fleet of buses or trucks etc. Incidentally this is not true (afaik) for the electrolytes in the flow system.

          • Untangeled

            Ah, I thought it was swapping the charged liquid lithium for a while.

          • Untangled

            Ah, I thought it was swapping the charged liquid lithium for a while.

            *I posted another comment on this but I misspelt by name so it’s awaiting moderation. Feel free to delete it.

          • Michael James

            Untangled, lithium is not involved but different vanadium salts (zinc, bromine, manganese) and a big feature of flow batteries is that capacity is independent of cell size; ie. to increase capacity just have bigger storage tanks for the two electrolytes.
            I have a file copy of an excellent explanation and diagrams from UNSW engineering but the link is dead! But here is their summary:

            The Redox Flow Cell is an electrochemical storage system which allows energy to be stored in two solutions containing different redox couples. Unlike conventional batteries, the redox flow cell stores energy in the solutions so that the capacity of the system is determined by the size of the electrolyte tanks, while the system power is determined by the size of the cell stacks. The diagram below demonstrates such a scheme:

            There are a number of other technical advantages that this technology holds over other storage solutions:

            Energy is stored in tanks – separate from the cell stack
            · The system’s capacity can be readily increased simply by adding more solution.
            ·The cost per kWh decreases as the energy storage capacity increases.
            · Land space can be saved by building underground electrolyte storage tanks.
            · This system offers greater safety since there is less risk of instantaneously mixing the electrolytes and causing a sudden release of energy.
            · There is the possibility of mechanical or “instant recharge” by replacing the electrolytes.

      • adirondacker12800

        Made more sense when there would lots of waste hydrogen from the plants extracting deuterium for the fusion power plants that have been 10 years away for 70 years. And someway cheap and durable to store, transport and use it. That’s been just around the corner for just as long too. Makes a lot less sense with cheap, light, durable batteries.

      • Korakys

        I had written off hydrogen vehicles for a long time, but I was looking from the perspective of light vehicles. I’m not so sure now that hydrogen wont work in heavy vehicles. There are already a number of hydrogen buses in service. Not a perfect analogy, but most light vehicles use petrol while most heavy vehicles use diesel.

        • Michael James

          The only hydrogen buses in operation are pilot schemes run in collaboration with the big manufacturers.

          I reckon the only way hydrogen can take off is if the storage problem can be solved. CSIRO-Australia has made claims this year of finally solving the conversion issues in using ammonia (which also has a much higher energy density than compressed hydrogen). Only time will tell (today there is huge pressure on these public R&D organisations to conduct “science by PR release”).

          The reason the industry and research organisations keep trying hydrogen is because batteries can’t provide the amount of energy required by big buses and freight and other heavy vehicles. In principle hydrogen can do this, and the high cost of fuel cells can work in these vehicles (but not for smaller ones). But compressed or liquid hydrogen is simply unworkable and uneconomic. Iceland tried running hydrogen buses, but even where the electricity to produce the hydrogen was almost free (and green, ie. hydro or geothermal) it wasn’t enough, and I believe they have been converted to battery-electric.

          • Untangled

            Toyota seems to be placing big bets on hydrogen buses, as they have with cars but they seem to have shifted a bit there. Maybe because lithium is acceptable for cars even if it’s inadequate for heavy vehicles, although current lithium is still not ideal for cars. We might even see some hydrogen buses for the Tokyo Olympics, they seem to want to use the Olympics as a showcase for technology (they’re taking 5G as well), so we could see hydrogen buses running around in Tokyo soon.

          • Michael James

            Untangled, 2018/12/11 – 07:11

            Sure, but Toyota is the biggest vehicle manufacturer in the world (unless a Chinese company has overtaken it) so it is placing a bet on all feasible technologies. No accident that it was they who made the market breakthrough with Prius. Re “but they seem to have shifted a bit there”, well it is pure engineering as discussed on this blog. Those Nice trams only rely on batteries to get them across the few hundred metres of flat land in the very centre of town, and otherwise it is exactly IMC as described here (and plenty of time for unrushed recharging).
            Also no accident this is associated with the Olympics. Almost every people-mover in the world, excluding airports*, was built for an Olympics or a World Expo. Heck, even Paris Metro got its start in that way. Probably some of Abe’s QE lubricating it too.

            All new technologies that are pushing the engineering & cost boundaries need some starter project that helps them get over the hump(s). Fuel cells will benefit from scale-up in manufacturing. I’d be perfectly happy for the Australian government to throw a billion dollar development program at flow-batteries. In fact RedFlow’s technology is straight out of CSIRO but seems to be following the usual path: too little, too late, and then at some point–just as it becomes more feasible, bien sur–gets sold cheaply to some big multinational. I understand why it abandoned the domestic market–because it couldn’t compete with Li-ion, though even that may not be true on timescales relevant to housing (ie. beyond the 10 year plans of Powerwall et al.; will everyone be happy to spend that money all over again when it wears out? Short-termism wins out again.) But even there I am not necessarily convinced since a Flow system could easily be devised to compete by using its bigger capacity to service groups of houses or block of apartments etc. Indeed my suggestion has been to divert some of our wasted foreign aid budget to design/subsidise systems for small villages (Africa, India, Pacific–which of course is what that Fiji contract was). When you discount for the huge cost of running transmission towers, they probably would save money (but again, short-termism, and ‘someone else’ is paying for those transmission systems and they want to entrap customers into buying their power).

            *Actually, even airports. Saw a doco the other day on Atlanta’s Jackson-Hartfield airport and their people-mover (by pax load the biggest in the world) was installed for their Olympics. In fact IIRC, the original and world-first Birmingham airport maglev was built for an Expo (and its modern version links to the National Exhibition Centre).

        • Michael James

          Untangled, 2018/12/11 – 07:11

          All the big manufacturers have some research into hydrogen because they know they cannot afford to ignore it. Because it looks like the solution for heavy vehicles, if only the storage problem can be solved (and super-strong, super-expensive compressed gas tanks are definitely not it, and not just for cost but for losses; BMW has a prototype sedan but if you park it in your garage with a full tank and come back in two weeks it will be empty). Fuel cells need a lot of R&D too, to make them more robust and of course cheaper.
          A super-expensive prototype tootling around the Olympics is not going to impress any but the easily impressed.

          • Untangled

            Of course, it’s not impressive to have one demo buses. It’s only impressive it’s a large fleet. That said, I did some digging on Toyota PR and they want to have “over 100” buses ready for the Olympics. If they can get the momentum going after the Olympics, that would be impressive, 100 is quite a lot so there a good chance they’ll continue the momentum.


          • Max Wyss

            At the current state of technology, fuel cell drive trains are too big and heavy for bus applications. For regional trains, there is a chance (example Alstom Coradia iLint, where they have a buffer battery in addition to the fuel cell unit (allowing for regenerative braking)). But I think, unless there is a revolutionary beakthrough in reducing the fuel cell drive train to half its size and weight, that technology is not really suitable for buses.

  2. fbfree

    Do any of these IMC technologies have automatic poll placing? It seems somewhat pointless to have IMC on an express bus if every time it passes a local, the driver has to get back out and replace the polls.
    As an aside, the Hastings route in Vancouver has wire strung for express buses over the 40% of the route that is electrified. Unfortunately, while Hastings is ‘relatively flat’, it still climbs up and down capitol hill before reaching Burnaby mountain. It seems like a case where full electrification is warranted.

    • Eric Doherty (@Eric_Doherty)

      Automatic re-wiring at specific points (where ‘rooftops’ are installed on the wires) is standard equipment. Saw it in action in Zurich, Budapest ect – works quickly and reliably (and it is easy for the driver to connect manually if they don’t position the bus in the right spot, as I saw once in Budapest.)

  3. BikeGuyEmoji

    Alot of cities have over time, swapped trolley poles for pantographs. Are there any examples of In-Motion Charging platforms based on roof-mounted pantographs? Seeing inverted pantographs deployed in new e-bus systems always seemed like the right tech in the wrong place.

    • Max Wyss

      With buses, there have not been any replacements with pantographs. Only just recently, Siemens showed pantographs for their electric truck system (which is aimed at highways). In an urban environment, more side sweep is needed than can be handled with pantographs.

      Pantographs are the standard with streetcars/light rail systems. In fact, trolley poles count as highly outdated for rail applications, particularly because they do need switches, and it is difficult to build grid separators.

      Pantographs on buses also exist for opportunity or flash charging stations, where it can be raised and make contact with a short section of overhead wires. Opposed to trolley poles, there is no need for guiding the shoes onto the wires. The bus has just to be stopped at a certain place with some tolerance.

      • Martin Wright

        I do wonder whether the principle of the Siemens e-highway could be used on trolleybus routes. The wiring would then be simple straight wires. The bus is equipped with batteries. The driver lowers the pantograph for overtaking or at missing sections (where previously there would have been complicated wiring junctions) and then rewires in motion as seen on the Siemens videos.

        • BikeGuyEmoji

          This is effectively what I was thinking, but in an urban environment. Using pantographs for e-buses to simplify the overhead wiring into straight–even rigid–wires. And have multiple buses connected at the same time. But maybe it is not necessary; just ‘roof’ over a blocks worth of trolley wire to increase reliability? Lowering the weight of an unloaded e-bus seems to be a smart goal for bus operations. Proterra has build their company around the strategy. IMC could really make a big difference with that as well.

  4. ckrueger99

    FYI: Part of the Philadelphia’s busiest trolleybus line, #66 along Frankford Ave, has parallel local and express wires that operate simultaneously during rush. Mute after IMC becomes widespread.

  5. F-Line to Dudley

    Silver Line Washington St. in Boston was originally supposed to be electrified for buses, since the old Orange Line El traction power feed is still active under Washington St. as an interconnect for the ends of the 1987-relocated Orange Line. They were supposed to be able to cheaply tap the feeder plug-and-play with new TT wire, with 600V DC substation upgrades then being able to be distributed across downtown because of the feeder interconnects. Then the late Mayor/Dictator-for-Life Tom Menino lobbied against it not wanting wires above the streets, and managed to poison the process. Hence…diesels. Including a planned switch to diesel had the SL Phase III tunnel linking the separate halves of the Silver Line ever been built.

    Anyway, Washington doesn’t need TT wire plugged into that underground feed. It needs PANTOGRAPH wire for Green Line trolleys plugged in, with hook-in to the abandoned Tremont St. tunnel…the sooner the better. Dudley Square is far and away the largest bus terminal in the system lacking a direct rapid transit transfer, and the whole Roxbury bus network suffers greatly from the ham-fisted Ruggles + Roxbury Crossing runaround that tries to overcompensate for that. They need to fix what they broke when the Orange Line El was torn down 32 years ago, especially now that the SL Phase III tunnel through Chinatown has proven unbuildable at BRT width with all the structural underpinning required.

    I don’t know what a good solution would be for Warren St. because Dudley’s the terminal and extension of the trolley down Warren to cull some of the bus duplication probably wouldn’t be advisable for schedule-keeping. This is an unfortunate consequence of the decision to tear down the El, because in the mid-70’s they were studying relocating Orange per today, demolishing the Dudley-Forest Hills and Chinatown portions of the El per today…but keeping and refurbbing the 1.5 miles of El from the Mass Pike to Dudley Station for re-use hooked up to the Green Line. Which would’ve allowed a rocket-fast grade separated ride to Dudley, and allowed branchlines down Warren/Blue Hill Ave. that could’ve kept time to/from the subway. Alas, for variety of reasons it didn’t happen that way.

    The answer for Warren might lie in a rethink of the Roxbury-Dorchester bus network, especially if/when the Fairmount Line starts chucking in RER frequencies worth its salt. Do the east-west leaning routes that ping between Orange, Fairmount, and Red-Ashmont need to be as firmly anchored to large terminals, or arrayed in a redistributed web? Can anything be culled/combined as a result of Dudley getting rapid transit and no longer needing run around the block to Ruggles and Rox Xing? If battery buses are coming, can they ration E-mode for the area of maximum route overlap on Warren…especially on routes like the 28 (Dudley-Mattapan) that touch an extant traction power charging source at both terminals on their route? Etc., etc., etc.

  6. Reedman Bassoon

    BYD is the worlds largest manufacturer of electric buses. BYD built an electric bus factory outside of LA to land US contracts. Things have gone well.

      • fbfree

        For more data, I’ve been tracking Chicago’s first two electric buses, via the Bus Tracker API, almost since their launch. They never were racking up too many miles, but for the first three years, they we’re doing weekday peak-hour trips around 70% of the time each, getting in between 1000 and 2000 hours of service each. Entering year 3 however, one of the buses no longer seems to be running and the other (701) has only been in service for a little over 300 hours. These buses were built by New Flyer.

    • Michael James

      Good to know that story, but yikes, those articles and websites are a nightmare.
      The Washington Examiner site is a nightmare and almost crashed my Mac (which perhaps is due to my old browser which I can’t update anymore …), and after closing down half a dozen pop-ups and a new browser window that was hidden behind the existing ones (and slowing it down to a crawl), the article itself said nothing of any weight. Likewise for the greentechmedia one.
      Only the first one, in the LA Times had any meat, but it was 4,230 words in what was one of those “political exposés” rather than focussing on why the BYD buses failed. (This was in May 2018.) As far as I can tell it is because the batteries are simply underpowered; the buses had crap range and decreased quickly as they were used, and they couldn’t cope with hilly routes (and their pull on power on such routes caused electrical failures).

      I think it does highlight the problems: full-sized city buses (rather than toy buses or minibuses) chew large amounts of energy and batteries to fill that need would be uneconomic at this stage of the game. BYD is actually the biggest battery maker in the world, having half the world market for mobile phone batteries and is a player in EVs too. But it doesn’t seem to have mastered e-buses yet (no one to steal the R&D from, so having to do it itself :-).

      • Alon Levy

        I asked ABQ RIDE’s public information officer and he sent me a press release by the city with a quote by the city’s chief operating officer saying the buses are unsafe. Apparently they either didn’t pass required testing or were never tested as required.

        • Michael James

          As a research scientist of course I understand that R&D on new technology or new applications, is going to be a learning exercise and involve failures, but not when promising the world for an actual real-world implementation such as a direct swap for existing LA buses on existing routes.
          The theme of that LAT article (though an admission: I speed read it; too LIC for me to bother in detail) is that the mayor wants to attract BYD (one of the miracle companies out of Shenzhen) to the city. The article claimed they have received $330m in subsidies and contracts, which I wasn’t totally convinced of, but if real is rather a lot for only 5 e-buses that immediately failed. Though I suppose one could say that using the American taxpayer to fund such experimentalism is a long tradition. Yesterday was a big media event in Oz when the Minister for Defense welcomed two F35s to our shores (of a contracted 72) … at a cool $105m each and a mere decade late delivery …

      • Max Wyss

        I did read the articles, and it is the LATimes one which the other two refer to. To me, it shows that the company and their product were crap, but not the principle per se. But I am doubtful whether the “general public” can see that differentiation.

        From the few non-political parts of the article it looks to me that the batteries did not have the required/promised capacitym OR the regenerative braking did not work. From other sources I understand that the traction energy needed for a standard (12m) bus is around 1.7 kWh per km, and for a single articulated (18m) about 2.4 kWh. Then you will have to add the auxiliary consumers (such as control system, air compressors, air conditioning, lighting etc.) and you may have to add 50% or so. (FWIW, another source states that their 25m double articulated BTBs with a 50 kWh battery can operate “normally” (meaning just as if they were operating in electric mode, and fully loaded, usual more or less steep grades) for about 10 km, and in “emergency mode” (meaning that all unnecessary consumers are shut off, and no passengers on board) for about 30 km).

        This also shows that there can be a considerable difference between the “promise” by the manufacturer (maybe measured in the above mentioned “emergency mode”) and the reality. I would not be surprised if that were the case in Los Angeles.

        • Michael James

          Yes, and this is typical of Chinese manufacturing. Lots of crazy expansion and on-the-run R&D (some of which is ‘tech-transfer’ or outright ‘borrowing’ from established manufacturers) but persistence with glitches and failures en route, leavened by big contracts from state-directed entities etc. Arguably a perfectly logical industrial development strategy. Just that one doesn’t expect one of those entities to be a big US city and their taxpayers.

          The Anglosphere has an awful habit of tendering and accepting the lowest possible bid, regardless of quality or credibility, and then years later, usually under a different administration (hence the vicious cycle of short-termism) we end up paying in multiple ways for the failure to deliver. Two giant railcar contracts in Australia (Sydney’s Waratah and Brisbane’s QR passenger division) were on this basis to China and India respectively, and both have run into awful messups that have made the total cost, not to mention delays, much more expensive than some other tenders, including using local assembly etc. The Chinese company simply couldn’t build to the standard required and had to subcontract to a bigger more experienced Chinese company, yet Sydney paid for this cock-up. Those Indian-built cars are being heavily modified locally to conform to requirements; this was a Labor government decision, correcting the conservative govt original contract, and of course now the conservatives are shrieking “waste” because Labor are sticking with local workshops to correct the error, whi. This is just another factor in why we (Anglosphere) ‘can’t have nice things’ (or reasonable cost, in all things rail).

  7. po8crg

    Birmingham (England) is building an unwired segment of its tram (light rail) system that will be unwired for aesthetic reasons and is using IMC and batteries in that area, so this is also an option for light rail. Nice (France) already has this operational, though the Birmingham system has a much larger unwired area.

    Bigger unwired light rail networks can use ground-level charging like APS as pioneered in Bordeaux.

    • Michael James

      Yes. Nice was originally going to use the ground-level system but went for mostly-wired and batteries to get them thru the UNESCO-listed areas. The Bordeaux system had problems with heavy rain overwhelming the drainage system, and they replaced part of the unwired route with standard catenary, but not within the UNESCO area.
      I guess Nice gets big coastal storm dumps periodically. Interestingly Alstom has gone with NiMH batteries, possibly because they can deliver higher power for those short periods. But equally interesting is that NiMH development has been stymied:

      Cobasys control of NiMH batteries created a patent encumbrance for large automotive NiMH batteries.

      Cobasys is a subsidiary of … Chevron.

    • Jhonny

      I never understood the unwired light rail hype. It has no benefit beyond one that can be argued about endlessly

  8. Michael James

    In today’s Guardian:
    Shenzhen’s silent revolution: world’s first fully electric bus fleet quietens Chinese megacity
    All 16,000 buses in the fast-growing Chinese megacity are now electric, and soon all 13,000 taxis will be too
    Matthew Keegan, 12 Dec 2018

    China’s drive to reduce the choking smog that envelops many of its major cities has propelled a huge investment in electric transport. Although it remains expensive for cities to introduce electric buses – one bus costs around 1.8 million yuan (£208,000) – Shenzhen was able to go all-electric thanks to generous subsidies from both central and local government.
    “Typically, more than half of the cost of the bus is subsidised by government,” says Ma. “In terms of operation there is another subsidy: if we run our buses for a distance of more than 60,000km we receive just under 500,000 yuan [£58,000] from local government.” This subsidy is put towards reducing the cost of the bus fares: “The government looks at the public transport very much as social welfare.”
    To keep Shenzhen’s electric vehicle fleet running, the city has built around 40,000 charging piles. Shenzhen Bus Company has 180 depots with their own charging facilities installed. One of its major depots in Futian can accommodate around 20 buses at the same time. “Most of the buses we charge overnight for two hours and then they can run their entire service, as the range of the bus is 200km per charge,” says Ma.
    There is also geography to consider. Shenzhen is fairly flat, but the hills of nearby Hong Kong have proven too much in trials of electric buses. Other cities in northern China have struggled with battery power in the extreme cold of winter.

    Frustratingly they don’t say who make the buses, but you’d think in the home of BYD …

  9. Jhonny

    The big problem with electric buses is that fundamentally they’re still buses. And as such implementing them while costly will not produce an increase in ridership similar to laying rails. They might still be worth investment, but more often than not, they should get to the end of the queue.

    Now if we could get a source of finding that doesn’t compete with transit money…

  10. Ross Bleakney

    This type of charging is also useful for making minor route changes. I’ve noticed this in Seattle. No reason to go through a huge amount of work running the wire if you don’t have to. That is likely to happen a lot in the next few years. In many cases the buses will follow old wire, but have gaps. Buses like these (which Seattle has purchased) do a good job operating on those gaps.

  11. Stephen Bauman

    Most cities operated trackless trolleys between the 1940’s and 1960’s. They were abandoned because their operating costs were much higher than diesel buses. Brooklyn had a fleet of 200 such buses on several routes. They were abandoned in 1961. Boston had a much more extensive network. They were abandoned in 1962 with the exception of some the lines that used the Harvard Square underground station. In addition to their higher operating cost, trackless trolleys proved to be terrible snow fighters.

    One rationale for converting from trolleys to trackless trolleys was the primitive transmissions of the early gas buses. No shifting, or clutches were required for the trackless trolleys. That vanished in the 1950’s when reliable automatic transmissions were introduced. The trackless trolleys were not replaced in kind, when they had to be replaced by the 1960’s.

    One operational disadvantage is the inability for the trackless trolleys to pass one another. They are better than trolleys because a disabled bus could be passed, once its poles were lowered. However passing a stopped operating bus isn’t possible.

    • Alon Levy

      Indeed, while American cities don’t have IMC, they still get buses with batteries that let them bypass disabled buses on the same wire; the Kiepe link has examples in Seattle and San Francisco.

      • Stephen Bauman

        they still get buses with batteries that let them bypass disabled buses on the same wire;

        All a diabled bus has to do is remove the poles from the wire. Buses that were behind can then use the wire; the disabled bus doesn’t need it. The problem concerns an in service making a stop and a follower trying to pass.

        There was a much closer example in the late 1930’s to late 1940’s in Newark NJ to the service you envision. The Public Service “all service” buses. They did not have batteries. They were gas electric buses, with a gasoline engine turning a generator the powered traction motor powered wheels. Public Service had the manufacturer add a pair of trolley poles. These buses would operate under wire, where it was available – the Newark core and would lower the poles and operate by gas in the burbs. The post WWII diesels were much cheaper to operate and maintain, so the ‘all service” buses were scrapped along with the overhead wire.

        • Alon Levy

          That works if the bus is disabled due to mechanical failure, but if it’s just stuck in traffic and a rapid bus needs to overtake it, you need to power both buses at once.

    • Michael James

      They were abandoned because their operating costs were much higher than diesel buses.

      That is one of those statements thrown around but which seems quite without foundation. It seems highly unlikely. Electric motors versus heavy diesel plus transmission (whether manual or automatic–or, as I recall in the 60s “select-omatic”), electric buses require a lot, lot less, and less expensive, maintenance. Also, in much of the world outside the US, diesel was not an especially cheaper option, as most of the developed world had to import the stuff. There was also a mindset that the era of streetcars was over; in my part of the world both trams and trolleys were ‘disappeared’ at the same time, and for probably the same reasons which bear no relation to maintenance costs but supremacy of ICE vehicles in all their manifestations.

      I think the real reason why they fell out of favour (with bureaucrats, not with passengers) is the “flexibility” arguments, which especially applies to buses versus fixed-rail transit. It’s an awful short-termist, anti-urbanist logic but nevertheless is still made today, reinforced by the beancounters who seem to run everything. For fast-growing cities there was the additional capital cost in provisioning new suburbs plus an inflexible cost to installing the overhead wires. Versus the easy option of crayoning a new route overnight. Plus it meant running and maintaining two different bus fleets. Note that cities that weren’t growing, like land-and sea-locked San Francisco, never lost their trolleys. I don’t know anyone who lived in the trolley era who doesn’t lament their passing, and compare them very unfavourably with diesel, or even LNG, buses, especially back then when the giant motors were very intrusive, both inside the pax compartment and to all users on the street.

  12. lcpitkan

    I wouldn’t call IMC particularly big in Europe. Existing trolleybus systems are making more use of battery range extension, which is of course sensible, but I haven’t heard of any new systems. In some cases (Esslingen) batteries are replacing diesel range extenders. I believe Kiepe is the largest supplier of electrical quipment for trolleybuses in Europe, so their list is probably half of the market.
    Rapid opportunity / flash charging looks bigger to me (alongside full day electric buses), although it is still too early to say whether it will be a lasting success. VDL has some big contracts. Mostly in their home market, but also in Germany(*. Nantes chose ABB/Hess for upgrading their BHLS/BHNS line and Volvo has several small pilot contracts. We also have a local manufacturer in Finland, Linkker, although I doubt they have much chance competing with big existing bus suppliers.
    Some rapid charging cases:
    100 buses around Amsterdam:
    55 buses in Rotterdam:
    20 BHLS/BHNS bi-artics for Nantes:
    35 buses for Helsinki:

    • Martin Wright

      A graph produced by VDL showed that trolleybuses with battery power took about 15% of the European electric bus market in the first half of 2018. That’s not bad for a niche type of vehicle. Obviously the low hanging fruit is with expansion of existing systems such as Zürich etc. in Switzerland and, in a couple of years, Lyon in France.

      But a completely new system is under construction in Prague, which will have about 50% powered from the wires and 50% battery running. Two new BRT trolleybus installations will open in Italy in 2019, one in Rimini and one in Rome (though that will not be using IMC). Berlin and Stockholm are studing using trolleybuses with IMC and limited wiring, because they doubt that battery buses will be suitable for their heaviest duty routes.

      Yes Kiepe is one of the major suppliers but don’t forget Skoda Electric which sells trolleybuses using bought-in bus bodies. It has just linked up with Iveco to produce the Crealis articulated trolleybus with IMC.
      There are other smaller scale manufacturers and one giant is returning to the trolleybus market: ABB

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