Annals of alt-energy: Electric transit buses

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Sounds like a fantastic idea - right? From the Philladelphia, PA NPR affiliate WHYY:

SEPTA’s cracking battery buses raise questions about the future of electric transit
At the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, executives from SEPTA gave free rides on gleaming new battery-powered buses. The PR stunt was meant to herald the transit agency’s intent to purchase 25 all-electric Proterra Catalyst buses, which, at that time, would have given SEPTA the largest fleet of its kind in the United States.

A bright green vehicle wrap proclaimed SEPTA had “plugged into an emissions free future.” A new lobby exhibit inside SEPTA headquarters showcased a decades-long “evolution” of its 1,500-vehicle-strong bus fleet — the vehicles from Proterra, the nation’s largest electric bus maker, were presented as the next step in that evolution.

But, today, what was meant to be the future of SEPTA’s fleet is closer to extinction than evolution.

It’s been nearly a year and a half since a passenger set foot inside one of SEPTA’s Proterra buses, which cost nearly a million dollars apiece when they rolled out in 2019. Most are now gathering dust in a South Philly bus depot, riven by cracked chassis and other defects. The diesel and hybrid buses that SEPTA planned to replace with the all-electric fleet remain in service, with no timeline for the e-buses to return.

Yet another example of poor management.  The people making the decisions are not held accountable for them. Always leads to crap. A bit more:

But even those routes needed buses to pull around 100 miles each day, while the Proterras were averaging just 30 to 50 miles per charge. Officials also quickly realized there wasn’t room at the ends of either route for charging stations.

Even cherry-picking the routes resulted in epic fail. Gasoline and diesel are mature technologies. As much as people might want electric buses, they are not practical. The numbers simply do not work. Add to this the energy density and you are pushing a very large rock up a very steep slope. All of the following numbers are in Mega Joules per Liter.
1 MJ = 0.28 kiloWatt Hour.

  • Diesel = 35.8
  • Gasoline = 32.4
  • Hydrogen = 5.6
  • Lithium Ion battery = 1.0 to 2.6
  • Lead Acid battery = 0.56

I am looking at volume as weight is not as much of an issue with wheeled or tracked vehicles. For a given storage volume, this is how much recoverable energy can be stored.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on July 17, 2021 2:38 PM.

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