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Electric Vehicles Research
Posted on October 29, 2012 by  & 

Industrial & commercial electric vehicles: huge success

We are very unreasonable when we buy a car. We want the equivalent of an urban and a long range bus and we demand a very low-up front price and long range. The result is that, despite huge government subsidies and tax breaks for making and buying pure electric on-road cars, their sales remain pitiful - less than one third of the sales of golf carts. Pure electric on-road cars may be a success in about ten years if purchase price can be reduced, range increased - maybe trebled - and there are lots of charging stations scattered around as standardised lifebelts. We may not use them because we shall charge at home and at work, but we want them there just in case. Someone wealthy has to provide the money with no payback.
The world of industrial and commercial electric vehicles is easier in many ways. The IDTechEx reports "Industrial and & Commercial Electric Vehicles 2012-2022" and "Electric Buses & Taxis 2012-2022" explore the technologies and provide forecasts in these markets. This article discusses some of the research, recent developments and successes.
Without global standards, a bus company can swap its one type of battery at the depot or fast charge with the best system even if it is not standard. Companies buying and operating such vehicles look at cost over life. National and local governments buying them may do so uneconomically in order to reduce local and global pollution and be seen to be green although buses produce only around 0.1% of global warming. Lead by example. Both company and government seek to give the passengers a quieter and smoother experience, increasing ridership and income. The result is that industrial and commercial vehicles such as buses are a commercial success now. The market is rising rapidly and the pace of technological development is completely outclassing cars.
Powered by the Chinese national bus program in particular, the sales of buses are expected to be as follows in 2022. However, pure electric buses could predominate depending on improvements and decisions yet to be made.
Source IDTechEx report, "Electric Buses and Taxis 2012-2022"
The large urban bus has gone from having a very large, noisy, polluting piston engine to parallel hybrid, series hybrid with slightly modified internal combustion engine, series hybrid with specially designed small internal combustion engine and then pure electric all in the space of ten years. The pure electric option splits into ones with a high power density lithium-ion battery alone and then ones with large banks of supercapacitors in the roof to manage fast charge and discharge and increase battery life. Healthily, there is no agreement as to which is the best technology at any one time.
At the recent eCarTec conference in Munich in Germany, Volvo said that, despite being the world's largest manufacturer of pure electric large urban buses it is hooked on hybrids and it sees no need for supercapacitors in them. At the recent IAA bus and truck show in Hannover, Bombardier said it will continue to make only pure electric large urban buses because it sees no logic at all in perpetuating the "intermediate stage" of hybrids. It does not use supercapacitors across its batteries. On the other hand MAN in Germany has a "Lion" urban bus with entirely supercapacitors - no lithium-ion battery. The Chinese often favour pure electric buses, though the very expensive batteries have safety issues and need replacing every few years. A few Chinese, US and Russian urban buses work on supercapacitors alone, charging at every stop. However, there are many Chinese hybrids with supercapacitors alone instead of batteries.
The Chinese Government recently had McKinsey investigate their EV policy, their recommendation being to concentrate on series hybrids. Now there is a debate about most supercapacitors having a dangerous chemical in them and the Japanese voluntarily only making environmental ones. Which will be fitted in future industrial and commercial vehicles? Meanwhile, the new MAN hybrid trash collection truck runs pure electric in the urban environment, permitting near silent service in the night. The car industry has nothing like this frenzy of technological innovation.
Shenzhen City in China has recently added 1500 pure electric K9 buses and e6 taxis to its public transportation fleet, already the largest zero-emissions fleet in service world-wide. Commenting on these successes, Shenzhen Development and Reform Commission (SDRC) Director Xiangzhen Lu said "Shenzhen is the first city in China to implement a subsidy for new energy vehicles and the first city to launch consumer sales of the BYD e6."
The zero-emissions taxi fleet has already given many consumers their first experience with the BYD all-electric, 5-passenger e6, China's first long-range, pure-electric car. SDRC cited rising oil prices and growing environmental pressures as key reasons to transform the public transportation system. Shenzhen City believes electrified transportation offers the most effective way to simultaneously stimulate economic recovery while restoring the environment by lowering CO2 emissions. The addition to the fleets will include 1000 pure electric buses and 500 pure electric taxies, all manufactured by BYD. Yes, China has over 125 million electric bicycles getting people to work but local governments often see them as a cause of congestion and accidents, even pollution from indiscriminate disposal of lead acid batteries.
The result of the technological change and the national programs of support for buses and other clean industrial and commercial vehicles is rapid adoption. Airports have ever tougher pollution restrictions and lead acid batteries therefore power many of their Ground Support Equipment GSE vehicles. However, here, as elsewhere, lead acid is steadily being kicked out in favour of lithium-ion batteries because they last much longer and require much less maintenance. There is no need for one in use, one cooling down and one charging for example, with forklifts. However, outdoor forklifts, agricultural, earthmoving and mining vehicles are becoming hybrid instead of conventional engine to improve costs and reliability. John Deere and Caterpillar introduced large hybrid vehicles to their ranges in the last year or so.
One of the three or four lead acid batteries in a long distance truck is replaced with an identical supercapacitor so it starts even at minus 40C. Pure electric small industrial and commercial vehicles are hugely successful. Like golf cars, the pure electric version is sometimes even cheaper up front. A hybrid utility vehicle acts as a powerful source of electricity at destination and hybrids lead to all vehicle functions becoming viably electric - quiet and long-lived. It is buses where the first energy harvesting shock absorbers will be viable ant an amazing 12kW generated per vehicle even on a very smooth road. A little of that power will be fed back to provide the far better ride that comes from active suspension.
For further in-depth discussion and analysis please see Electric Buses and Taxis 2012-2022 and Industrial and Commercial Electric Vehicles 2012-2022

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Posted on: October 29, 2012

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