What you need to know before implementing electric vehicles

The future of transportation is clear: alternative fuel, hybrid and electric vehicles are taking over. As of 2018, over 45% of the approximately 65,000 transit buses in the US are alternatively fueled, according to APTA. More and more agencies are adopting e-buses, and for the right reasons.

The Challenges

The challenges accompanying e-bus adoption are still unfolding. Along with being significantly higher in cost, there’s also an increasingly complex infrastructure to consider. Agencies must learn to understand vehicle range variations, plan routes and determine charging station locations and manage and reduce electricity costs.

Not just transit agencies, but Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and transit suppliers alike will also have to start re-thinking the way we approach transit planning, infrastructure, operations, and maintenance for electric vehicles.

Case Study: Denver RTD

Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) currently has one of the largest electric bus fleets in the country. The agency’s experience implementing their fleet of BYD battery electric buses provided important lessons for future implementations.

Transitioning from hybrid to battery electric buses required the adjustment of block lengths, and a re-evaluation of the bus blocks on their 1.4-mile-long 16th Street Mall Operation in Downtown Denver. Furthermore, since their kWh per mile has varied primarily due to heating requirements, they had to lower their heating set point to reduce that range variation. Idle times and high passenger loads have also proved to impact RTD’s range variation.

Perhaps the most unanticipated challenge for RTD was the impact of high electricity costs. In response, they gained a better understanding of how their bills were being calculated, and better control of how and when their buses were being charged.

To summarize, here are some topics to consider before implementing e-buses, according to RTD:

  • Usage and duty cycle determination: Consider heating and cooling requirements, route profiles, stops and accelerations, and driver behavior.
  • The cost and availability of electricity.
  • Battery capacity and types of charging: Consider the trade-off between battery capacity and on-route charging, and that battery electric buses are not one-to-one functional replacements for diesel or CNG powered buses.

Understanding and Overcoming the Challenges

The good news about e-bus implementation: there are solutions to help mitigate the operational and economical risks. INIT has developed integrated solutions within the “MOBILE” suite which cover every task e-mobility requires. From simulation and planning, to dispatching, operations control and State of Charge (SoC) monitoring – there are tools available to simplify and streamline an otherwise complicated and somewhat mysterious process.

E-vehicle implementation starts with planning. INIT’s planning tool for e-buses allows agencies to simulate scenarios using specific vehicles, charging station types, passenger loads and various temperature ranges. The software then delivers the most economical plan for integrating e-vehicles into a fleet.

The most important factor when operating e-vehicles is state of charge (SoC) monitoring, since the actual range of electric vehicles is significantly harder to predict than that of vehicles with conventional combustion engines. Our new charge management system provides predictions of future energy consumption, monitors charging processes, and ensures appropriate charge management and balancing to avoid expensive peak loads.

Finally, we offer a range monitoring tool which monitors charge levels while vehicles are en route and also calculates their remaining range as accurately as possible. It uses historical operational data from the energy consumption analysis system combined with state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms to generate a model for an individual vehicle’s battery consumption for specific sections of a route.

A Carefully Comprehensive Solution

INIT provides a comprehensive solution that carefully considers all aspects of e-mobility in public transit. This overall solution allows you to roll out electric vehicles in a way that is safe, controlled, and predictable – and ensures an efficient and successful operation of your fleet.


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