> FOCUS FLEETING BENEFITS
ing facility in Lancaster, Calif. The Shenzhen-based company
has a long history as an electric car and bus manufacturer. It
offers buyers a proprietary iron-phosphate battery that can
travel 155 miles or more between charges.
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway was so impressed
with the company that its 9. 9 percent ownership stake makes
it the company’s biggest shareholder.
“They’re actually facing a billion dollars in orders,” Harrop
said. “The small bus companies are going to have to pay attention.”
BYD recently won an 18-bus order from Albuquerque (N.M.)
Rapid Transit. The 60-foot articulated vehicles are estimated to
cost the city $24 million, which is $7 million more than traditional diesel versions. However, operational savings, including
reduced fuel and maintenance, are anticipated to reach $21 million over their 12-year lifespan.
The bus market is important to developing electric heavy-duty trucks because much of the technology is transferable.
Barton said this market is potentially more important to
reducing vehicle-related pollution—along with operator fuel
costs—than with light-duty passenger cars. For comparison, he
referred to the Chevy Cruze, a traditional gasoline automobile
built on the same platform as the company’s Volt BEV.
“The Cruze is already a pretty efficient vehicle,” Barton said.
“But if you take a garbage truck that gets 2–5 mpg, and you
make that fully electric, that’s where you see a real impact if
you could introduce hybrid or full-electric technology there.”
Mack Trucks, based in Greensboro, N.C., has seen this
opportunity and exhibited a prototype PHEV garbage truck
at a waste-industry trade show in June. Similar to the Volt, the
truck is powered by an electric battery pack but also features
an onboard turbine engine, fueled by natural gas or diesel,
that can keep the batteries charged to extend the truck’s
The powertrain was developed by Wrightspeed in San Jose,
Calif., a company started by Tesla co-founder Ian Wright. Like
most passenger EVs, the truck also features regenerative braking, which recharges batteries with every stop.
As the EV market grows, many people are saying charger-connected vehicles could become a resource for electric utilities.
When needed, utilities could draw on the aggregated capacity
stored in hundreds or thousands of distributed EV batteries.
Though Jones sees the potential for EVs to assist in smaller
microgrids, he doubts that vehicle-to-grid applications will
become a reality anytime soon, even in fleet applications where
multiple vehicles are connected in a centralized depot. At utility
scale, he doesn’t see such transactions making sense.
“When you model, in general, the cost savings, it looks good
on paper,” he said. “But, in reality, you’re trying to take a bunch
of small batteries that you don’t know where they’re at and
trying to aggregate all that. I just don’t see the vehicle-to-grid
market being more important to the utilities than just large,
Utilities might still be interested in integrated communica-
tions between vehicles and the connected grid, particularly at
the fleet level, where managing the charging process could be
a critical step in ensuring the increasing number and power of
EV charging stations doesn’t negatively impact grid operations.
This challenge only grows as fleets expand their EV ranks to
include heavy-duty buses and trucks, taxis and other commercial and industrial vehicles. For example, New York, Chicago,
London and Amsterdam are looking to expand the ranks of
electric-powered cabs, especially those serving airports in
their cities. Airport transit fleets hope to make that move, too,
because the heavy concentration of vehicle traffic, with accompanying emissions, makes airports areas of particular concern
for clean-air advocates. However, an impressive charging
infrastructure will be required to keep these quick-turnaround
vehicles up and running.
“The next big sector is the taxi and bus fleet, and the next
big challenge we’re going to have to solve is organizing all these
parties,” Jones said.
He estimated the load for a centralized, on-site charging
facility to serve an airport could be enormous—up to 25 times
that of a large shopping mall.
“It will require some heavy industrial planning,” he said.
Yet, even with these challenges, Jones is bullish on the future
of EVs in general and on the importance of fleets to familiarizing the broader public to the advantages these vehicles can
offer, beyond the environmental benefits. Fleet vehicles have
become emissaries of sorts, showcasing the ability of EVs to
address a broad range of needs.
“It’s the ability to see these vehicles in action and [hear] the
feedback from the people using the cars,” he said. “When people
get into an electric vehicle, they don’t want to go back.”
RO SS is a freelance writer and editor who has covered building
and energy technologies for a range of industry publications and
websites for more than 25 years. He specializes in building and
energy technologies, along with electric-utility business issues.
Contact him at
email@example.com. I S T
BYD’s K9 model is a 40-foot electric bus introduced in China in 2010.
Established in 1995, BYD specializes in IT, automobile and new energy.
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