The New Transit System: 15-Second Flash Charges In 2018

Green Logistics, to something greater than itself, is the determining factor that can make or break possible futures for our children. As much as consumers want to empower their business with green powertrains, though, apparently unfixable flubs in Chemistry and Physics have been holding energy storage capacities back from the very beginning. Initially, it was rechargeability – the exploding of batteries that disintegrate with repeated charges and discharges.

Today, the battery’s storage capacity, or how much energy a battery can take and how long it takes for each recharge is the biggest concern for self-confessed Green fanatics. Other barriers are the price and lifespan of the batteries and the source of energy. While most of the flak has been offset to-date by, e.g., the Prius’s bumper-bumper 10-year insurance, the Leaf’s estimated 135 km range per charge, and Tesla’s Powerwalls and solar home charging kits, as well as the cheap costs of constructing e-charging stations in comparison with that of gasoline. Yet, rechargeability and the speed of doing so remains the holy grail for e-powertrains since the Goodenough idea conceived in the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory, late 1970s. EVs still take all night to charge in exchange for a couple hours drive over a hundred km range and some change. Although the search continues, particularly for applications with large transport vehicles like buses and trucks where battery power alone can’t keep up with the weight, we might have found the next best thing.

The legacy.

As transit buses run routine itineraries with regular stops at the same stations and schedules to pickup and drop off passengers every trip, the infrastructure for charging abilities at stops along the way has been in use for quite some time. Integrated pantographs, or a jointed framework conveying a current to a train, streetcar, or other electric vehicles from overhead wires, comes with trolley poles and hoisted overhead power lines that interfere with route flexibility, en route schedule as well as urban view, atmosphere and structural layout of the city. The overarching wires, literally, makes urban living look overly wired up. ABB to the rescue, this time, 15 seconds is all that is needed – and with no lines, either between stations or linking to the bus.

The dawn of wireless flashes. Pantograph wires, no more.

The Swedish-Swiss Engineering giant with the largest conglomerate network in the world, ASEA Brown Boveri (ABB), specializes in robotics, energy and automation tech, and recently won the first commercial order for its zero-footprint 15-Second Flash Charge technology for transit systems. While electricity is generated entirely from clean hydro power, ABB claims to be able to recharge EV batteries at an unprecedented speed of a  mere 15 seconds.

The solution can make e-bus “powering” a lot cheaper and a lot more effective. Should the technology live up to promises, it could tip the scale for the industry and change the way urban public transportation operates, for good. With as many as 135 passengers in observed tests, the bus is charged while the passengers enter and leave the vehicle. Two types of charging stations will be used for different purposes.

1.Flash-Charging systems are planted at pre-selected bus stations along the trip. As e-buses with roof-mounted batteries park directly under the charger at each station for 15-20 seconds, charging is conducted via the overarching plate above the batteries to convey a 600 kW current through “a laser-controlled moving arm”, instead of the typical trolley poles used to transfer electricity from “live” overhead wires to the current collector on trolley buses.

2.The second type of charging, as the name suggests, Terminal Feeding stations are used to charge e-buses at terminal stations, where IGBT-based rectifiers convert alternating currents into direct currents for e-buses and fully charge batteries with 400 kW electrical power within 4 to 5 minutes.

As the charging system to connect with the roof-mounted batteries gets installed, once the project goes live in full operations in 2018, it is expected to reduce over 1,000 tons of carbon emissions per year, in comparison with that of diesel. Much waits to be discovered how giant automakers around the globe will respond to this affordable and highly creative environmental-economical co-invention. WIll they jump on the new bandwagon and dispatch legacy systems for a new vision, create something different altogether, or stay put for a while? Would flash charging capacity still be needed when batteries are optimized to the point of being able to capture the majority of fluctuating energy from wind and solar? For long range large transport and cargo vehicles, optimistically Yes. This is an interesting story to follow and follow we will.

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