Electric bus manufacturers BYD and Proterra are making serious moves
The electrification of public transit buses makes a lot of sense if executed well. China-based BYD (Build Your Dreams) and Greenville, SC-based Proterra are two companies that take very different approaches to electric buses, but both have plans for aggressive expansion in the near future.
While BYD opts for long-range buses with large iron-phosphate battery packs capable of traveling 155 miles on a charge, Proterra instead maximizes utility by minimizing charge times. Their “infinite range” electric bus is worthy of the nickname because its lithium-titanate battery pack can be recharged in as little as 5 minutes, enabling virtually seamless integration into urban routes for effectively unlimited operating range.
BYD to manufacture electric buses and battery packs in Brazil
The Chinese EV-maker released plans last week to build a manufacturing facility in Campinas, in the Sao Paolo region of Brazil, that will open in 2015 and be capable of producing 1,000 electric buses with battery packs in just its first year of operation. The company refers to this capacity as “the first stage of manufacturing expansion.”
The impressive production capacity will be the result of a $90 million investment and planned 32,000 square-meter and 20,000 square-meter facilities.
“BYD chose Campinas because of this city’s spirit of innovation and their goal of building a cleaner society, said BYD Chairman Wang Chuanfu. “Along with the buses and batteries, our dream is to build solar panels and energy storage systems here to help the region achieve their zero emissions goals.”
Proterra announces first sale of second-generation electric bus
Proterra’s first product, the EcoRide BE-35 all-electric bus, was quite successful. It established the Proterra name and demonstrated the feasibility of the company’s proprietary automated fast-charge technology, which enables a bus with a relatively small battery pack to operate virtually non-stop.
To date, Proterra has delivered 44 all-electric buses to 9 different transit fleets across the United States. As it prepares to launch its new and improved model, Foothill Transit of West Covina, California has agreed to purchase the first two units of the second-generation transit bus.
This second-generation Proterra bus claims an outstanding efficiency of 20.8 MPGe (compared to a claimed 3.86 MPG for diesel buses), and is capable of traveling more than 26 miles per charge. It uses a 220-kW electric motor and a 2-speed transmission.
Which technology is superior?
Quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter in this particular debate. Each electric bus manufacturer will find customers who fit the proper profile for the capabilities of their product.
Aside from the initial investment, both varieties of electric bus are vastly superior to their diesel, hybrid, and CNG counterparts in every way. Proterra estimates its fleet operators will save $300,000 to $430,000 in operating costs over the life of each bus, so that takes some of the sting out of the high purchasing cost.
Though BYD buses and their 155-mile range will be quite capable of meeting the needs of most fleet operators, it is the strategy of Proterra and buses like Sweden’s Arctic Whisper that provides the most intriguing potential. The makers of the Arctic Whisper claim to be targeting 2-3 minutes of recharge time, and Proterra is no doubt aiming for similar rates.
This fast recharging is of particular interest to the wider EV industry; although it is presently well-suited only for large transit buses, the potential applications to light duty vehicles could change the game.