• Oct 8th 2010 at 7:02PM
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Opbrid Busbaar overhead charging system – Click above to watch video after the jump

When Spain-based Opbrid Transporte Sostenible S.L. chief executive officer, Roger Bedell, threw this quote into the company's press release regarding its overhead rapid-charging system for hybrid and electric buses, we couldn't help ourselves and immediately went digging for more:
With this system, it is possible to change most of the urban bus systems in the world from petroleum to electricity simply by changing diesel buses to fast charged hybrids and installing these charging stations. We can do this now, and we need to do this now.
Bedell, speaking about the company's revolutionary Busbaar – an overhead, pantograph-based rapid-charging station for buses – is ecstatic for good reason. You see, the Busbaar system leverages the rapid charge capability of lithium-titanate batteries and employs an end-of-route high-power charging (250 kW) system that operates without plugging in. Its simplistic operation could forever change the bus industry. The Busbaar system functions like this: as buses pull in to either pick up or drop off passengers, the overhead charger swings into action. Within five to six minutes, the bus' charge is sufficient to continue on to the next stop where it repeats the process again.
Opbrid suggests that properly outfitted hybrid and electric buses, charged by the Busbaar system, could handle the daily task of transporting people to-and-fro without using a drop of diesel. Now, that's revolutionary. Of course, there's the slight issue of installing all of these undoubtedly expensive stations across the globe and outfitting buses to be Busbaar-capable, but both of those potential problems could be overcome. Right? Okay, it might take decades before Busbaar revolutionizes the industry, but the system still looks promising to us. Hit the jump to watch the Opbrid system in action and check out the company's release that describes the Busbaar overhead rapid-charging station in detail. Hat tip to David!

[Source: Opbrid]


Opbrid Bůsbaar Fast Charging Station Makes Electric Buses Practical Now

Today, Opbrid SL unveiled its Bůsbaar fast charging station for hybrid and electric urban buses. When the bus arrives at the fast charging station, the Opbrid Bůsbaar swings out over the bus, and pantographs on the bus raise up to connect to the bar. The bus charges for 5-7 minutes which is enough for the bus to run 100% on electricity to the other end of the route (10-20km).

October 5, 2010

Many electric and hybrid-electric buses can be upgraded to use up to 100% electricity from the grid instead of diesel simply by installing an Opbrid Bůsbaar fast charging station at each end of a bus route and fast charging, long lasting, AltairNano lithium titanate batteries on the bus. By fast charging these batteries for 5 or 6 minutes at each end of a bus route, a bus can run throughout the day on 100% electricity from the grid. This breakthrough gives cities an exciting new option for clean, quiet, sustainable, electric public transportation as a low cost 'drop in' replacement to diesel buses, all the while saving money and requiring no overhead wires. (Video)

Reliably built by the highly regarded Swiss electric rail supplier Furrer+Frey and Germany's Schunk, the Opbrid Bůsbaar is simple and safe. It can be installed easily in any location, since it is unobtrusive and swings away from the road when not in use. Unlike building a tram or trolleybus system, the Bůsbaar can be installed in days at a tiny fraction of the cost.

As Opbrid CEO Roger Bedell says, "With this system, it is possible to change most of the urban bus systems in the world from petroleum to electricity simply by changing diesel buses to fast charged hybrids and installing these charging stations. We can do this now, and we need to do this now".

The Opbrid Bůsbaar is based on technology from the European electric rail industry. Their long experience of moving very large amounts of electricity from overhead lines to electric locomotives has resulted in heavy duty components that are practically indestructible, with design lifetimes measured in decades instead of years. Opbrid has partnered with world class companies Schunk and Furrer+Frey to provide these components. Besides their exceptional reliability and safety, parts availability is also assured far into the future.

The Opbrid Bůsbaar was designed to provide a large target for docking the bus to the charging station. This large physical target makes it easy for the bus driver to line up the bus to the charging station in all types of weather and situations. This is especially useful in difficult situations, and the Opbrid Bůsbaar was designed to work reliably anywhere in the world.

All electrical connections are overhead to eliminate high voltage risks, and reduce vandalism. To avoid any possibility of collision between the roadside portion of the charger and tall vehicles, the charger swings away from the road when not in use. Additionally, the charger is electrically grounded when retracted, providing a further layer of safety protection.

Converting buses from diesel to electricity from the grid has a host of advantages, not the least of which is that it is less expensive over the lifetime of the bus. Other advantages of electricity are more stable prices and sustainable non-CO2 sources such as domestic wind, solar and hydro power. Electric buses are clean, quiet, sustainable transportation, and the Opbrid Bůsbaar makes fast charged electric and hybrid-electric buses an exciting new option for cities around the world.

About Opbrid S.L.
Opbrid Bůsbaar is a brand of Opbrid Transporte Sostenible S.L., based in Granada, Spain that is focused on providing products and services to enable the emerging fast charged bus industry in Europe and worldwide. We believe that the fast-charge concept will revolutionize the urban bus, changing it from a loud, polluting, CO2 emitting vehicle into clean, quiet, sustainable transportation. For more information on the Bůsbaar and fast charged buses in general, visit www.opbrid.com

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      24kWh, 250kW = 1/10 of the hour, 6 minutes. For entire route, not every bus stop. You could easily double the battery pack for longer routes and wait for 12 minutes at the ends of the routes to get that battery full.

      Even that one of those charging stations cost a lot just fuel and maintenance savings should cover it up really fast. Also buses are heavy enough that unsprung weight of hub-motors doesn't matter much and they could have AWD with collecting regenerative braking energies from every wheel helping it and handling. I think drivers would like that.

      Lets see... one route, 12 minute intervals of buses, so that there is time for one bus ending charging while other is just coming to station. 5 cars / hour. 24kWh * 5 * 24h = 2880kWh / day, * 365 = 1051200 kWh / year. If I assume that you use less than fifth of the gas cost to use electricity instead (slow city traffic) you save 4/5 of electricity cost. $105120 * 4/5 = $84096 saving in fuel / year / route. I don't know what the maintenance savings would be. That doesn't quite cover the price of the charging station, but if it is in use for more than four years, then it does. If we calculate cars in that it would be 2.5 cars / route. Make that three. If one battery pack costs $10k then that's about $30000. Not much. Still covers the cost of charging station in four years.

      If you double the cars (pretty tight interval) saving is doubled as well.

      It is feasible, but not extremely game changing. You would need to bring that station cost down to make this really competitive. Especially if you need two of those stations / route.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Excellent reasoning. Don't forget that the buses are now hybrid buses so there will be potentially huge savings in maintenance costs as well. Hybrids have regenerative braking which not only puts energy right back into the battery (extending the range between charges) but also greatly reduces the wear and tear on the brakes. On a vehicle as large as a bus I'm pretty sure brakes aren't cheap...

        Too bad they couldn't go completely electric with the buses, then they would be saving the cost of oil changes, tune-ups, air filters, and repairs on the fossil burner engine as well.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is not for long distance buses, but short. A variety of hybrid buses could be used, as long as they were set up to receive the charge and used lithium titanate batteries.
      On a typical short distance route, at least in cities in the UK, doing a 14 km journey is going to take an hour, or more.
      So you are talking of perhaps 1/10th as many chargers as buses.
      The relatively small pack reduces the cost of making the buses hybrid.
      I would guess that the total cost per bus including the pack and the infrastructure needed at around $60,000.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "On a typical short distance route, at least in cities in the UK, doing a 14 km journey is going to take an hour, or more."

        Really? That's slow. 14km/h average speed. I can cycle that distance faster without breaking a sweat. Maybe you should concentrate on streamlining the buslanes instead, because that slow mass-transit is borderline of being useless.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A heckuva lot of our roadspace in cities is given over to buslanes. People here on the whole live closer to where they work than in the US, so average commute times are no longer. It is chicken and egg.
        Checking the busroutes in Bristol though I overstated the case. The times I am giving are appropriate to rush hour, rather than during the rest of the time, and the average route is likely 5-6 miles before starting the journey back.
        Ideally then you would have charging stations elsewhere on the route, although of course being a hybrid you aren't going to run out if on a particular route you have to spend part of the time running the combustion engine.
        Of course though, these things are not either/or, in reality you introduce it on the routes it is most suited to.

        BTW, you would likely beat the bus times in many European cities on a bike, and there is now reasonable provision in the form of bike lanes etc.
        The remaining hassle is in finding somewhere to put the bike, getting sweaty on the journey and so on.
        On the whole though if petrol prices tripled then in Europe it is inconvenient in city areas at least as opposed to rural, and would have massive effects on industry etc, but people could largely get to work, the shops etc.
        The effects would be far more severe in the US
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just found it. Nano on the Anode for high recharge ,low energy density. Toshiba SciB battery.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Here is another link.
        They can handle charge rates as high as 15C and still give 6,000 cycles, and have a very high SOC - IOW they can be drained to near exhaustion and still have decent life.
        The only weakness is the energy density, which ran at around 50wh/kg.
        Toshiba have now bumped that up in the version they intend to use in hybrids, to around 100wh/kg, which of course is still far less than the latest NMC batteries from, for instance, Panasonic.
        Now Altairnano has solid financing from a Chinese company I would expect them to also make progress in increasing energy density and reducing cost.
        Toshiba claim that their chemistry is cost competitive, but whether they mean that it's other advantages outweigh the increased cost or that they can do it for similar costs/kwh to other chemistries we don't know.
        For pure EVs Toshiba are hoping to further bump the energy density to around 150wh/kg.
      • 4 Years Ago

      I see. I'm actually a BEV fan but one trying (just trying) not to be attached to a single solution, at least for the time being. Batteries for EV's don't have to look like these in cellphones. At the moment, we're just taking whatever the (handheld appliance) battery market has to offer and shoving it in a car, which is not necessarily a good idea in a long term.

      I guess the reason people here don't like fuel cell is not their structure but fuel itself (produced from gas, why not just burn gas then?). If one could use electrolysis to efficiently produce hydrogen that wouldn't be much different from using a (flow) battery.

      In case of electric city buses that indeed could work - produce hydrogen over the night and use it to refuel buses before each route. Storing hydrogen wouldn't be a big issue (just one day) and efficiency of 50% probably wouldn't be worse than that of fast charging, especially if you take electricity cost into account.
      • 4 Years Ago
      the high DOD and cycle life should help make up for the lower energy density. ie (Volt= 60% DOD in order to get the life). Thx for the input-GSB
      • 4 Years Ago
      I suppose flow batteries could be better suited for this purpose. Their energy and power densities are rather low but that shouldn't be a problem for city buses. They don't have to be superlight, powerful or have a long range.

      OTOH, infinite life time, number of cycles, deep discharge, fast refilling and capability of recharging the electrolytes out of the bus (slowly, more efficiently and with lower power), safety (electrolytes are kept physically separate, unlike electrodes of Li-Ion cells) are pretty neat features.
        • 4 Years Ago
        There is plenty of data out there. Lithium titanate has been extensively tested by both the manufacturer's Altairnano and Toshiba and by those putting them into heavy duty applications.
        Why you should choose to ignore that data, or discount it whilst giving credence to what the manufacturers of flow batteries say is entirely unclear- perhaps you would clarify.

        Lithium titanate is fine for the application in both cycle life and safety.
        If you have solid data to the contrary please provide fully referenced sources.
        • 4 Years Ago
        What's the matter with using lithium titanate?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Hi nbs:
        The charge for 6,000 cycles is at 10C charge, 15A discharge:
        They are rated for around 12,000 cycles at 1C.

        I've got nothing against using flow batteries, but to date AFAIK they are not even at the trial stage for this sort of mobil deployment but have only been tested in stationary applications, as:
        ' The main disadvantage of
        fow batteries is their more complicated
        system requirements of pumps, sensors,
        fow and power management, and
        secondary containment vessels, thus
        making them more suitable for large-
        scale storage applications.'


        Here is Pike Research's study - note that various batteries are listed, but not flow. They are not even on the radar yet.

        Of course, more cycles would be great, but of the technologies presently on offer the specs of titanate are far better than anything else.
        • 4 Years Ago
        > What's the matter with using lithium titanate?

        These are good batteries but there are simply better alternatives for this particular application.

        In electric city buses, the biggest problem with any batteries (including these using lithium titanate) is charging time and power. To make things practical (profitable) it shouldn't take longer than 10 minutes and preferably ~5 minutes to recharge the battery. That requires a lot of power, solid infrastructure, compromises efficiency and life time of batteries. Lithium titanate chemistry (just like e.g. Ni-Cd) allows fast charging rates but it doesn't mean that building the whole business around concept of fast charging is a good idea.

        I'm skeptical about life time of batteries that have been fast charged tens of times a day. Lithium titanate may have better characteristics than other Li-Ion batteries but it doesn't make the problem go away. I'd really like to see some measurement results showing capacity reduction after 1 month or year of such use.

        In contrast, electrolytes of flow batteries could be cheaply and efficiently recharged at night and tanks in the bus could be refilled with fresh electrolytes before each route. These batteries have zero self-discharge currents, unlimited life time and number of charge cycles and can be safely discharged to zero. The mass of batteries, which precludes using them in general purpose cars, is not a big problem in city buses (it is comparable to that of lead-acid type).

        Finally - safety. Storing tens of kWh of energy in large surfaces of active materials separated by micrometers thick electrolyte is never a good idea, regardless of what manufactures say. Any mechanical damage to the electrolytic layer will result in dissipating all the stored energy in a rather spectacular way. That's something we have to live with in cars like Nissan Leaf (there are simply no better alternatives at that energy densities) but if we can at least city make buses fire proof, why not do it?

        The article shows that electric city buses with Li-Ion batteries are feasible and cost efficient. That's an interesting idea that pushes things forward. But in a long term we really want a better suited energy storage medium.

        > Heh, heh. I see what you did there....

        Sorry, what do you mean? (English is not my primary language so might be missing something).
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Flow batteries"

        Heh, heh. I see what you did there....
        • 4 Years Ago
        "> Heh, heh. I see what you did there....

        Sorry, what do you mean? (English is not my primary language so might be missing something)."

        Flow batteries are closer to fuel cells than many BEV enthusiasts would care to admit. Had you straight out suggested fuel cells would be a better option, you would have been comment-bombed into oblivion!

        Hydrogen fuel cells, in particular, are perfectly suited for the purpose of large buses (and trucks), regardless of long-range OTR or metro use.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I can't say anything about those batteries used here, but I have seen some research for advanced high-power li-ion batteries with over 5000 cycles still having over 85% capacity left. Those are full DOD numbers so if you want to increase battery life give it a bit buffer so that they do only 80% of full cycle each recharge and that life extends quite a bit.

        Who knows what those battery chemistries will be in few years from now. I have read some very weird results with some advanced nanotechs that managed to get better results than theoretical energy density of the material in question (which cause was reason for that study). There is very wild future in batteries. Advances in nanotechs and material sciences have made huge leaps in just few years. Something that is just now starting to appear in everyday life.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Looking at data you provided (>6000 cycles, 15C charging) these batteries indeed look very good. I'd be happy to have them in my car.

        However, are these 6000 cycles specified for 15C charging, or as it is often done, the manufacturer has cherry-picked best figures?

        Also, 6000 cycles, although impressive, is not that much for heavy-duty applications like one we are talking about. If you assume 10 charging cycles per day the whole battery pack will be dead in 2 years.

        I don't say it can't be done but if I was an owner of a bus company I'd double check these figures. The idea to relying on fast and often recharging as a part of core business seems risky to me.

        I have no relation with battery manufacturers (Li-Ion, flow-type or any others) but I have no problem believing in what flow battery makers say. As you probably know, these batteries are based on reversible electrolysis reaction with fluid reactants both at the input and output side. Contrary to solid-electrode batteries there is no structure to break (energy is stored in two fluid reactants), there is no self-discharge, aging, or safety hazards (reactants are stored in two separate containers), you can charge/discharge them for as long as you physically don't run out of reactants etc. It simply feels like a perfect solution for heavy-duty applications.

        To be fair, there is a part that needs maintenance - the membrane (similar to these in fuel cells) but that's a relatively small part of the battery. So even here you'd need some cost calculations to see if it is a right solution for you.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thank you for all the interesting links. It looks like these batteries might be viable solution for powering up city buses, at least for a couple of years, until better technology becomes available.

        I'm obviously thinking ahead. I don't think it would be that hard to adapt some stationary power back-up system to power up city buses, complexity is not a big issue (we're not talking about a cellphone, after all). It's just a matter of doing it.

        As I mentioned before, there are more problems related to fast charging than just ability of batteries to be used that way (infrastructure, cost, reliability, efficiency, safety). My position is that, whenever possible, such scenario should be avoided. However, if it makes electric buses appear 5 years earlier than they would otherwise - great.

        Finally, safety. We might have solve (did we?) some obvious problems like thermal runaway but, in principle, higher energy and power densities mean worse safety.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I guess I will have to go study up on Li Titanate. Any of you guys familier w/ this chemistry?? Obviously it's advantage is high C rate in charge mode. They also mention high cycle count. I wonder how well it handles the heat and how safe it is. and what the enrgy density is. Apparently it is not low cost. -- GSB
      • 4 Years Ago
      Can't believe they didn't catch the kid flipping a double bird at 1:09.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Ooops! Time to do some fast editing! Thanks for catching that...
      • 4 Years Ago
      Another idea:

      Put the battery on a trailer and swap the whole trailer at the end of each route (swapping the battery alone might not be easy enough). That would actually be a good solution for long-range buses and other commercial vehicles.

      I wouldn't even mind having an option of renting a small trailer for my private electric car - that could be better method of extending the range than carrying an ICE engine and fuel at all times.
        • 4 Years Ago
        yes. I am hoping it will be relatively simple to mod the Leaf to accept a trailer.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Obrid say that their system cost is $300,000 per station. The buses use lithium titanate batteries as made by Altairnano and Toshiba to allow the very fast charge.
      It seems that the batteries needed for a ~14km route would be around the same as for the Leaf, about 24kwh, and that battery costs for this chemistry are around $1-2,000/kwh
      Since the batteries also have extraordinarily long cycle lives it should be possible to charge them several times a day and still have around 6-8 year for the service life.
      Obrid have designed this as a hybrid system to minimise battery size so that the air con can run without worrying about getting stuck with a flat battery if the bus gets stuck in traffic, or in poor winter weather when the heater will be running and there may be snow to plough through.
      Since standard railway parts are used there is no problem building up production, with the only other system cost being a fast 250kw charger, which is likely to drop in price so the cost of deploying is modest.
      The grid might need buffering to cope with the very high draw, perhaps with flywheels or more lithium titanate batteries.

      This would seem to me capable of being run out in cities soon at reasonable cost.
      A medium size city might have 150 or so bus routes.
      • 4 Years Ago
      For the overhead charger, is it possible to use inductive electro-magnetic rather than physical contact connection?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, but why would you want to put up with the efficiency penalty?
        The operation of the busbar is as automatic as you want it to be anyway.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I believe it would be rather effective Darwin Award collection point too. 250kW fries a human being very effectively. You need to make the communication between bus and charger really failproof, so that that charger beam is not "hot" all of time.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The technology is already developed in the railway industry, so it is pretty mature and risks well controlled, although of course the higher volumes of buses promise to reduce costs.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Vancouver has tons of electric buses powered by overhead wires. Occasionally they come loose and the driver has to go out with a rod and hook them back up.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Maybe I am missing something. Before World War II in Philadelphia all our trolley cars were powered by electric motors whose energy came from overhead wires. There were so many different trolley lines that you could go from anywhere to anywhere else in Philadelphia with trolleys, with transfers. Then GM put electric trolleys out of business in Philadlphia and everywhere else.

      From Wikipedia: The Great American streetcar scandal (also known as the General Motors streetcar conspiracy and the National City Lines conspiracy) refers to an era during the mid-20th century history of American public transportation in which numerous streetcar systems throughout the United States were dismantled and replaced with buses, allegedly as a deliberate result of conspiracies and illegal actions by a number of prominent companies acting through National City Lines (NCL), Pacific City Lines (on the West Coast, starting in 1938), and American City Lines (in large cities, starting in 1943)
        • 4 Years Ago
        This is not trolley car, but li-ion BEV that just get charged at the station. Much less infrastructure needed, much better freedom of movement for cars.
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