Mirroring the passenger car (and now light truck) market, over the past ten years, the motor coach industry has seen a steady increase in buses using battery-electric (B-E) propulsion. We profiled Proterra a few years back, which at that time was the only battery-electric bus sold in the US. Since then, every North American and most international manufacturers have a B-E model in their line-up, and many are projecting going fully electric by the end of the decade. But these are urban transit models – now MCI has introduced an electric intercity/touring coach…
The MCI 4500 CHARGE is based on the company’s successful J-Series touring model, that comes in 40 and 45 foot lengths. The internal combustion parts are replaced with a battery-electric power-pack developed by Siemens. Power is 260kW and a very impressive 3320 ft lbs of torque. Battery capacity is 544kWh with a max range of 240 miles.
Given this rather limited range, I wonder how successful this bus will be. Just looking at my old home state of Ohio, it could make a one-way run from Columbus north to Cleveland (142 miles) or a round trip south to Cincinnati and back (212 miles), but to catch the Bengals-Browns game (Cincinnati to Cleveland-249 miles) would be too far without a recharge.
That then brings us to the recharge rate – which is in the middle at 150kW. A complete recharge from 0% to 100% would take around four hours. My sense is until we see an increase in range or more on-the-go charging options such as roadway-embedded wireless charging or pantograph equipped highways, it will be tough for intercity/tour operators to make the switch to B-E.
MCI’s other B-E coach, the D45 CRT LE CHARGE, might fair better – it’s aimed at the commuter market, in which MCI already has a pretty solid position. While the range is only 170 miles, commuter runs are typically during peak load times in the morning and afternoon, leaving time for recharging.
But as we’re seeing with cars and light trucks, battery technology and range are increasing every year.
Recently, Van Hool, Temsa, and BYD have also introduced intercity/commuter B-E models in the US.
So that next bus tour/commute you take may be a lot quieter than it used to be…
Embedded roadway charging seems like the way to go with these (and, frankly, all other BEVs, as well).
Considering the massive expenditure it will take for that, whether it actually ever comes to fruition is a whole different ballgame.
It won’t. It’s not realistic.
The cost of installing it would be insanely high.
However, in there are experiments in Germany that use overhead wires for electric heavy trucks on the Autobahn, switching to ICE in cities. It will be interesting to see what the result is.
You’d likely never actually charge it from 0 to 100% so the effective range is less than stated and the charge rate varies during the charge based on the current charge in the battery so even if so 0-100 would take longer than just the pure math (544/150).
That being said, 150 is not a particularly fast charge rate anymore, 250 is quite common now and faster is easily doable as well (and not uncommon either, especially outside of North America), so in the meat of the recharge that would take less time.
A larger battery also solves (or increases) the range along with aero improvements (camera mirrors as one obvious improvement to start). A faster charge rate reduces the recharge time, although both do increase infrastructure/investment cost.
Battery swap infrastructure and standardization might be a more realistic solution compared to large scale embedded roadways or pantographs which are pie in the sky thinking for open road scenarios as opposed to contained routes (campus, inner city, etc), at least in North America. Refilling a diesel bus to full isn’t a literally five minute procedure either like in a Chevy Spark.
It’ll get there eventually (the charging I mean, although the bus will too…) . Good on MCI on investing in their future, 1960s man didn’t get to the moon and back by just pointing out that jumping off a one-story roof could result in a leg injury and then sitting back down on the couch, that’s 2020s thinking…
The biggest current problem to adoption of EV is naysayers not having a good idea of what they are talking about in general and yet talking about it as if they do. The vast majority have never ridden in, let alone driven, and even fewer actually “used” a modern electric vehicle for a period of time and then confuse something not being suited for their particular use case with the mistaken belief that the same applies to the rest of the population. Those that do rarely go back, just like those that switched from horses to cars over a century ago rarely went back…A car had to be manually refilled from a tank and was a bit of a procedure. A horse you just throw a bushel of hay in the corral and the horse refills itself overnight. It’s a wonder we all drive cars.
My grandfather was a small town doctor in southern Ontario and my mother told me that when she was little, which would have been in the 1920s, he kept a cutter (i.e. a one horse open sleigh) to use in the winter. However by the time he died in 1933 he was driving his Plymouth business coupe year round. I guess it was easier than harnessing up a horse, and slightly more comfortable.
The commuter version makes gobs of sense. I was always impressed at the huge number of commuter buses that would pour into NYC from NJ every morning, and then back out again at 5pm. What did the drivers do all day?
It’s the same reason EV school buses are so obvious.
As to the “tour” bus, well, I could see a number of obvious applications where the range is not an issue. First off, urban sightseeing buses, like the ones that crawl around Manhattan in large numbers. Stop and go and slow driving optimizes an EV’s inherent efficiency, and of course no exhaust. “Tour buses” aren’t only used in longer-distance charter service; lots of them work in urban/metro service hauling tourists from hotels to airports and various tourist attractions, and other such uses. I can see this EV tour bus being very useful as part of a fleet, assigned to these kinds of uses.
I rather suspect MCI knows its market well enough to justify this investment.
Split shift bus drivers are common here technically it breaks heavy vehicle log book regulations but bus companies keep scheduling them that way
Spot on – many buses (and delivery vans and trucks) do not do that many miles but keep to a scheduled known distance daily.
Scheduling services around overnight charging and/or interim charging outside rush periods sounds perfectly practical
Long distance travel clearly different, but don’t expect overhead wires any time soon
Where I live, this type of coach is mostly seen as privately owned commuter buses: Google, Apple, Genentech, etc. I’ll be looking out for the electric versions.
Wonder when I ride one B-E bus for my daily commuting to NYC. Commuter model has only 170-mileage which can only two trips from Central Jersey to midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal before charging required. And fully charged requiring 4 hours is another issue. For instance, New York City Transit Bus, the likely first adoption of this type of bus, has over 200 commuter bus in its Staten Island Division, to charge them during off-hour is another challenge. Not to mention if Con-Ed can reliably provide the required power. In my opinion, for commercial application, fuel cell is a better option provided we invest some money into hydrogen filling stations, I think that is Toyota betting on, some of its executives even claim the current President V with lithium ion battery is a transition technology, fuel cell is the ultimate solution.
Actually the current battery driven vehicle is working quite well with Uber car service set up, the driver is just not taking the order when he or she is asked for service when their vehicles are charged. I was on a Tesla 3 from Uber recently, the driver was so happy about how much money he saved during the recent gasoline price surge.
A new Jim Brophy bus article about new buses, carry on!
Many electric transit buses already on the road in NL, especially -no surprise- in the cities. A nationwide agreement has been signed a few years ago: from 2025 onwards, all new public transport buses must be emission-free. And from 2030 onwards: no emissions allowed.
It is interesting to see BEV heavy vehicles. The real driver of heavy BEV heavy vehicles will be cost. The drive train is simple and maintenance easier.
In the transportation business, emotion about new tech will be your downfall. If my competitors find a way of reducing their costs by say, 20%, I won’t survive for long.
Emotion is a strong driver in this. Back in the 1980s, by dear brother refused to convert his Chevy Impala taxi to LPG, as we were all doing. His rationale was his immense love of GM. Said Impala was perfect they way GM designed it.
He went belly-up in a year
Great to see your byline Jim. Very promising news, hoping there is a market here in Canada. Unfortunately, the long distance intercity bus industry is somewhat in disarray, since Greyhound Canada gave up serving their many routes across the country in the Spring of 2021. Megabus has stepped in to serve the busiest Central Canada routes, that are mostly Toronto centric. But much of this huge country is no longer served by intercity service. As growing car use between cities, was increasingly making it non-competitive for the bus services, well before the pandemic.
Hoping the federal and provincial governments might help out the small bus services now filling the voids, to adopt electric technology, while restoring many of the most vital routes.
After seeing a electric bus go up in flames, no thanks
How does one follow from the other? Gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles catch on fire, too.
So nice to read about this development. I can’t imagine how great these new BEV buses are going to be for everyone. Drivers, passengers, mechanics and especially workers based in the terminals not having to huff diesel fumes particularly during winter. Nothing but good will come from inter-city and inter-state long haul buses BEV adoption. Here in the Minneapolis metro we have several diesel hybrids, hydrogen and BEV buses and I sure as hell don’t miss getting blasted by bus exhaust during takeoff.
This year I was able to purchase a battery electric lawn mower, leaf blower, weed wacker and pole saw. They all work fantastic for my needs even if they don’t currently match gas engine performance. I’m delighted with them and don’t ever want to go back to gas. In the conservative Midwest I believe it will be peoples positive experiences changing from small gas engines to battery electric that will be a significant influence to BEV acceptance.