Bus Stop Classics: 2022 Motor Coach Industries (MCI) J4500 CHARGE and D45 CRT LE CHARGE – Your Next Tour/Commute May be Battery-Electric

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…