Purchasing new hardware? Read our latest product comparisons

TOSA tech charges up electric buses in 15 seconds


June 4, 2013

A new flash-charging system for electric buses delivers 15-second-long battery boosts at selected stops

A new flash-charging system for electric buses delivers 15-second-long battery boosts at selected stops

Image Gallery (2 images)

When you think of an electric bus, you probably either picture a vehicle that has to stay constantly connected to overhead trolley cables, or that attempts to run its entire route on one charge of its onboard batteries. In Geneva, however, they’re trying something else – a system in which an electric bus takes 15 seconds to receive an energy boost at selected stops.

Billed as “the world's first high-capacity flash charging electric bus system,” the technology was created by the Zurich-based ABB Group. The system is known as TOSA, or Trolleybus Optimisation Système Alimentation [Optimizing Power System]. Here’s how it works ...

The bus begins its route with a fully-charged battery. At every third or fourth stop, a charging mechanism on the roof of the bus engages an overhead receptacle that’s installed at the stop. The charging mechanism is mounted on a movable arm, and is able to line itself up with the receptacle using a laser guidance system. Once the two devices are coupled, the receptacle delivers a 15-second-long 400-kilowatt boost to the bus’ batteries. This takes place as passengers are getting on and off of the bus.

At the end of its route, the bus takes three to four minutes to completely top up its batteries.

Working with Geneva’s public transport company (TGP), the Office for the Promotion of Industries and Technologies, and the Geneva power utility SIG, ABB is now about to begin a pilot project in which TOSA will be tested on an articulated 135-passenger bus. That bus will be running a route from the Geneva airport to the Palexpo exhibition center, and will additionally incorporate a system that harvests the power generated by braking.

Not only does TOSA eliminate the visual clutter of trolley cables, but it also frees up buses using the technology to go anywhere in the city, as long as there are enough charger-equipped stops on their route. What's more, in the specific case of Geneva, all of the electricity used comes from hydro power – so no CO2 emissions are involved at any step of the process.

More information on the pilot project is available in the video below.

Source: ABB Group

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

One shortcoming of current (hehe) overhead electric delivery systems is that, in the case of a road closure or accident on the route, the buses may be unable to detour around the obstacle. This type of system should address that. I also like the idea of doing away with the tangle of lines, especially where routes turn and the lines need extensive tension supports.


It's a great system and probably the way to go for electrified bus lines.

But this is not the "world's first". There's a great article on Wikipedia about this technology, search for the term "capa vehicle". Looks like this was tried in Shanghai starting in 2005.

Maybe ABB has some detail in this that is different from what was done in Shanghai and thus tries to claim the "first" label. I might be missing that.


"no CO2 emissions are involved at any step of the process" right up until that point it was a great article ... then it had to jump into the CO2 is bad nonsense ... get over it, CO2 is not heating up the planet ... electric city buses are a good idea becasue of the other reduction in emissions and noise not CO2 reduction ...

Jeffrey Carlson

Clever :-)

Freyr Gunnar

not a lover of the articulated buses but think this could be a winner although I have heard of similar systems

Gavin Roe

I wonder if you could retrofit the system to EC or hybrid SUVs or vans? Ford Transit at least had one model in its range. Allow delivery vehicles to use bus stops and quick charging and a lot of city pollution disappears! Garage doors might need to be modified though.

The Skud

400 KW x 15 seconds = 1,66 KWh charging. If this buses needs only this energy, they can use a very small, high effective and cheap 20 KW on board range extender using biogas or hydrogen made of hydro-power instead this expensive environment. Refueling less than 3 minutes too.


I think this is a brilliant idea, however, what about the electrical field for the passengers, would this not cause health problems? Its a VERY high voltage just a few inches from their heads...


See an overview of electric urban transport in the International Electrotechnical Commision publication e-tech, April 2013


Peter Feuilherade

@Jeffrey J Carlson I'm not sure the inclusion of a fact, "no CO2 emissions are involved at any step of the process", turns a "great" article into a not great article. The author made no statement as to how good or bad CO2 is, but you assumed he is saying it's bad. By the way, you are correct, CO2 isn't warming the planet, it's insulating it thus aiding in the trapping of heat. That is what is heating the planet, and that is a scientifically accepted fact by more than 96% of those whose expertise makes them qualified to interpret and draw conclusions from the data.

Coconut Grover

Must for LA CA MTA bus line, & have system from ground to feed to bus,. Test in So CA.

Stephen Russell

Amen Grover, amen.


@BeWalt, that Shanghai bus used ultracapacitors if I recall well, not lithium. So charging fast was not a problem.


At one of the recent Chinese technology expos (it might be Shanghai as mentioned above) they used a similar idea but they used ultra-capacitors instead of batteries. Capacitors can be charged as quickly as you can pump in the electrons so fast charging is one of their trump cards. However I see the new Lithium Polymer G8 chemistry batteries can be fully charged in 5 minutes. I've just ordered one. About the size of a ummm.. (no I can't say that) ... ummm... one and a half toilet paper rolls end to end, it can deliver 1000 amps at 12 volts in a burst and over 500 amps continuous current. And it can be charged at over 90 amps. To put that in perspective, that's enough current to start 4 cars simultaneously! Pretty amazing and only around $US220.


@ Coconut Grover and @JAT

In the analytics industry, we have a phrase. Statistics do not lie, people do. Are you aware of the origin of the 96 percent stat? It was derived from a study completed by Doran and Zimmerman from the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in 2009. The AGU is a left wing political group with an agenda.

A link to the survey is provided below. If you read it, you will see that I am not fabricating this information.


They did an online survey of 10,257 earth scientists but chose to use a sample of only 79 (.00946) of the respondents. They basically created a selection criteria (known as a selection bias) filtering down to respondents that agreed with their point of view. These were the only respondents represented in the survey results. You do not have to be a statistician (I am) to know that this analysis is highly flawed.

Their method would be analogues to asking 10,000 people on a sunny day if they currently perceived low light levels. Then forming the basis of your analysis based only on the answers given by the visually impaired.

Wicked B

Aren't they using large capacitors in RC cars now for the very same reasons. I'd wonder how big you could make one before it jumped a spark to ground? Have seen similar used for batteryless motorcycles too. www.youtube.com/watch?v=RItOo2Esfew


warren52nz OK so off topic.... but where did you get those lithium polymer batteries at that price.... :)


@ Wicked B The link you posted didn't say anything close to what you claim in your statement, in fact it seems to support my statement "...the most specialized and knowledgeable respondents (with regard to climate change)... Of these specialists, 96.2% (76 of 79) answered “risen” to question 1 and 97.4% (75 of 77) answered yes to question 2" (Question 2 was: Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?) Did you assume that I wouldn't read the article that you linked to and simply take your word for it? That would be consistent with deniers since they have very little actual supporting data for their claims. Unfortunately for you I follow links and read articles because I'm more concerned with being correct than "right".

I would be thrilled to actually find out that AGW is simply a statistical mistake and that we aren't going to face climate catastrophes. But ignoring data, or making specious claims about not enough of a sample in one study, isn't a solution. It's simply a way for people to convince themselves that shirking the responsibility that they have to future generations is okay. There are numerous others that also agree with the study, just look at "Scientific opinion on climate change" on Wikipedia. Now, before you go "pfft..Wikipedia isn't reliable", I'm not asking you to believe Wikipedia, I treat Wikipedia as an information agregate, and follow the citations contained within to get the story. If there is a claim in Wikipedia without a verifiable citation, I treat it as suspicious.

You are looking at the article with your conspiracy goggles on. And "The American Geophysical Union (or AGU) is a nonprofit organization of geophysicists, consisting of over 61,000 members from over 146 countries. AGU's activities are focused on the organization and dissemination of scientific information in the interdisciplinary and international field of geophysics. The geophysical sciences involve four fundamental areas: atmospheric and ocean sciences; solid-Earth sciences; hydrologic sciences; and space sciences." - Wikipedia

Yep, they are disseminating scientific information, they MUST be a "left wing political group with an agenda". I would tell you what the IPCC has found too, but they are also disseminating scientific information so they MUST also be "left wing political group with an agenda".

I'm just glad that a statistician (you) has finally shown us the truth about Climate Change and AGW. Especially with your extensive knowledge of climate and environmental science.

"Ah, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forfty percent of all people know that." - Homer Simpson

Coconut Grover

Warren52nz, Are you sure the batteries you ordered are rated in Amps. Or are they MiliAmps which is how the ones I found on line for RC toys are rated.


I like this technology. Ultra-capacitors generally lack the energy density of state of the art lithium batteries, but conversely lithium batteries charge up much slower than ultra-capacitors and this sort of bridges the weakness of batteries. To put it in perspective, ultra capacitors fill the gap between normal capacitors and batteries with greater energy density than capacitors.

Truly, America must be the one most divided nation in the world if it is about global warming. If not it is the nation who politicises the issue the most even though it should not be a political issue in the first place. The consensus is there in science, but then you have lobbyists and some media puppets who mislead, misrepresent views and facts and try to manipulating the public into believing it is not a debate settled yet.

Without the consensus among the people, there is not enough political will to drive policy to boost change to a more sustainable system. If you want to see how much political will and policy can accomplish you can look at Germany for an example.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret


You are right-- the idea that 96% of climate scientists agree that antropogenic CO2 is causing warming is an ABSOLUTE lie that has been disproved by actual peer-reviewed academic studies. For instance, a group of leading Stanford researchers and others published a study called "Expert credibility in climate change" and found that 97-98% of scientists agree with the IPCC that antropogenic CO2 is causing dangerous warming. Putting that figure at 96% is a blatant lie by those uninformed left-wing hooligans. Shame on them for distorting reality in an effort to build a more hospitable planet for our grandchildren.


This is a revision of an idea that had already worked in 1930's in Switzerland, but with a flywheel, that is a heavy, rotating wheel which stored energy. The buses were powered by a three-phase system whereas three pantographs would touch contacts on the charging pole at stops.


Michał Borsuk

@ Michał Ḃorsuk Great read: http://photo.proaktiva.eu/digest/2008_gyrobus.html Thanks

Gizmag already wrote a lot about Flywheel energy storage being used in Le Mans and F1 race cars as supercapacitor replacement

Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles