When we think of electric vehicles, we generally think of conveyances down the lower on of the size spectrum, like cars, bikes and maybe even skateboards. But at this year’s American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Expo in Houston, BYD Motors took things in the other direction with the premiere of what it claims is the world’s largest battery electric vehicle – the Lancaster eBus.
Billed as America's first electric articulated bus, the Lancaster eBus is named after the California city where it was designed and built after over two years of development. From the outside, the 60-ft (18.2-m), articulated, battery-electric vehicle looks like any other bendy bus, but it hides some advanced electric drive technology. This includes in-wheel motors that can handle gradients of up to 21 percent and make it suitable for hilly urban areas, and give it a range of over 179 mi (288 km) with a load of 120 passengers.
Based in Pingshan, China, BYD specializes in batteries rather than buses, so the company’s philosophy has been to build the bus around the battery rather than select the battery for the bus. The Lancaster eBus uses BYD’s iron phosphate batteries also found in its cars and non-articulated buses. The company says these carry enough charge to complete a full day’s work without needing a top up, meaning the bus can be charged exclusively at night, when rates are lower.
Besides strategic charging, BYD says that the Lancaster’s battery can be recharged 10,000 times and still retain a 70 percent charge. This translates as a 25-year lifespan, which is greater than that of the buses that use it.
In addition, BYD claims that the Lancaster’s batteries can withstand fire, impact, punctures, and crushing to a very high degree, and that the Lancaster is a good bus to have around in a disaster. This is because one bus can recharge another, and the Lancaster can also feed power to the grid or a building in an emergency.
"BYD's mission is to create safer and more environmentally-friendly battery technologies," says BYD Motors Fleet Sales Vice President, Brendan Riley. "This has resulted in the BYD iron-phosphate battery; a fire-safe, completely recyclable, and incredibly long-cycle technology – the foundation of BYD's electric buses. These buses run entirely off battery power lasting up to 24 hours on a single charge, with single off-peak charging time of two to four hours. No additional generation capacity is needed to be built to charge our buses at night since the grid is only 40 percent utilized.”
BYD also took the opportunity to unveil its 40-ft (12.2-m), battery-electric Transit bus built for the Antelope Valley Transit Authority, which drove 1,500 mi (2,414 km) from Los Angeles to Houston with zero emissions at 250 mi (402 km) per charge, and covering 750 mi (1,207 km) in 24 hours for an electricity cost of US$200.
The video below discusses BYD electric bus technology.
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