IDTechEx – electric bus technology is moving faster than you think

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Market research company says progressive tendering processes and pollution laws are driving development of full-electric vehicles

At a recent IDTechEx conference, with presentations and webinars on the research carried out for the new IDTechEx report, Electric Buses 2015-2025, its Chairman, Dr Peter Harrop said that electric bus technology is moving much more quickly than is perceived.

He said: “The general perception is that things are moving much more slowly than is actually the case, with the exception of a few aspects such as use of fuel cells and continuous charging, both of which are failing to progress at the intended speed.”

On which powertrain storage technology will prevail, IDTechEx claimed that lithium-ion batteries will be dominant for another decade, with lithium-metal being some way off even in the view of those promoting them, though the situation with supercapacitors is ‘complex.’

“They have come in in a big way with hybrid buses that do not plug in, replacing lithium-ion batteries because they last the life of the bus and perform better, costing less over life,” Peter said.

“By contrast, only lithium-ion batteries can currently do the job for plug-in hybrid buses with long electric range and China now only gives subsidies for those hybrids now, so there the simple hybrid bus is virtually wiped out.”
Peter said there is a possibility that two new types of supercapacitor may eventually turn the tables in 5-10 years.

“They are structural supercapacitors in the form of vehicle bodywork so they effectively take no space and can store lithium-ion amounts of energy, performing better and lasting longer. Secondly, lithium-ion capacitors may grab a place as lightweighting, multiple energy harvesting and other advances mean that less electricity is needed in storage.

“People ask about safety of structural energy storage and we answer that it can be provided. For example, there could be many cells in parallel with fuses and remember the inherently less safe batteries sometimes work with a nail through them.”

Pure electric buses arriving much faster than realised

Questioners asked whether public tendering processes and were a large barrier to bringing in new innovative buses, and who should take the lead.

IDTechEx replied that the choice of subsidies in China is very progressive as are the ‘exceptionally stringent pollution laws kicking-in in Europe.’

“Government has a big role to play but local authorities buying buses also drive the programs of eliminating pollution at point of use. It all brings in pure electric buses sooner rather than later.

“There is widespread under-appreciation of the status of pure electric buses. People are amazed to hear of the 1,000 and 2,000 unit orders being placed in China for big pure electric buses and how both articulated and double decker pure electric buses are on sale. Range is typically in the region of 170 miles/ 270 km.”