Proterra Releases Patents For Fast-Charging Technology

Proterra Releases Patents For Fast-Charging Technology

Since it was founded in 2004, Proterra has become one of the biggest names in zero-emission bus design in the world.  Last year, Fortune Magazine went so far as to call the company the Tesla of electric buses. According to Bloomberg BNA, the company currently controls about 80 percent of the U.S. market for electric buses. You can find Proterra’s electric buses in cities all over the country – from Seattle to Reno to Nashville.

What distinguishes Proterra from its competitors isn’t just its commitment to electric vehicles; it’s the company’s proprietary rapid-charging technology that allows their buses to be recharged in as little as 10 minutes. This technology has alleviated one of the chief concerns many transit authorities have had about electric buses in the past – namely, the equipment downtime necessitated by long charging times. With Proterra’s overhead charging system, its buses can recharge quickly at stops and operate all day long. Now, in an effort to encourage other industries to adopt electric vehicles, Proterra has announced that it will make three of the patents on its fast-charging system open to the public.

“We really want to stay focused on perfecting electric vehicles for the transit bus industry,” said Proterra CEO Ryan Popple in an interview with Fortune. “One of the ways we can help other entities not have to reinvent the wheel or reinvent the charger, is to open this up, provide information, and supplier access and let other companies go after applications that really aren’t core to us or our customers.”

This isn’t the first time companies in the alternative fuel market have made their technologies open source. In the past, both Toyota and Tesla have released electric vehicle patents to the public. In doing so, they hope to foster further competition and innovation in the electric vehicle market, and ease concerns about electric vehicles that have been perpetuated by gas companies. Releasing proprietary technology to competitors might seem counterintuitive from a business standpoint, but in fact it could be good for all of these companies in the long run.

Orange County, California Unveils Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus

Orange County, California Unveils Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is committed to making their fleet of buses as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. Currently, 97 percent of the fleet runs on clean-burning natural gas. By the end of 2016 they expect the entire fleet to be powered by natural gas, with one notable exception.

On May 23, the OCTA hosted an event to unveil its first zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell bus. Wrapped in a graphic decal of California poppies, the bus will roam the streets of Orange County in a two-year demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell technology. The $2.6 million dollar project is being funded by the Federal Transit Administration’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program.

The bus, which operates by converting chemical energy in hydrogen fuel into electricity, emits only water as exhaust and is completely silent. Likewise, it provides a much smoother and more comfortable ride for passengers than older buses powered by large diesel engines. It can run on a single charge for more than 200 miles, and can be refueled in a matter of minutes. Electric battery-powered buses, on the other hand, can take several hours to charge.

The OCTA has applied for additional funding from the California Air Resources Board in hopes of adding 10 more of the buses to its fleet in the future. They are now the fourth transportation agency in California to operate a hydrogen fuel cell bus.

It’s remarkable how far hydrogen fuel cell technology has come in just a few years. As the cost of the technology continues to fall, we may see more of these vehicles on the road sooner than you might think.

Chinese Engineers Debut Innovative Space-Saving Bus Design

Chinese Engineers Debut Innovative Space-Saving Bus Design

Here in America, many cities have begun embracing bus rapid transit systems as fast, cost-effective alternatives to subways. In China, meanwhile, engineers are taking a very different approach to modern bus transit. It’s called the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB), and it debuted earlier this month at the 19th China Beijing International High-Tech Expo.

As its name suggests, the TEB’s passenger rides above traffic, rather than alongside of it. Its massive frame straddles cars, allowing them to pass underneath it without disrupting the flow of traffic. With its sleek lines and unusual form factor, the TEB looks distinctly futuristic.

Civil engineers in China hope that the TEB could allow them to bring the convenience of a subway system to cities at a fraction of the cost. Because it can carry hundreds of passengers and doesn’t require devoted lanes, TEB has the potential to be even more cost-effective than bus rapid transit systems.

“With a carrying capacity of 1,200 people at a time, the TEB has the same functions as the subway while its cost of construction is less than one fifth of the subway. Its construction can be finished in one year,” said Bai Zhiming, chief engineer of the TEB project.

Of course there are still some significant practical hurdles to overcome before the TEB hits the streets. First and foremost, drivers will likely need some time to acclimate to the idea of driving underneath enormous, highway-straddling buses. This will mean city planners will have to be careful about where they choose to implement the first TEB systems.

The engineers behind the TEB project hope to begin trial operations in Qinhaungdao City in the second half of 2016. You can check out a demonstration of the TEB in the video below!

 

Some School Districts Turning to Propane-Powered Buses

Some School Districts Turning to Propane-Powered Buses

In recent years, as public school districts have struggled to cope with tight budgetary restrictions, administrators have been forced to find new, creative ways to save money wherever possible. In many districts, particularly in the Midwest, schools have begun adopting propane-powered buses to cut the cost of fuel.
 
The Cedar Rapids School District in Iowa, for example, recently purchased seven new propane-powered buses to replace aging diesel models. These buses typically cost about $5,000 more than their diesel counterparts, but school districts can quickly recoup that loss in reduced fuel prices. Other notable districts that have adopted propane-powered school buses include Omaha, Chicago and Philadelphia.
 
Cost-cutting measure might be the primary reason that many school districts are adding propane-powered buses to their fleets, but it’s not the only one. Some school districts have begun making the transition to propane-power in anticipation of stricter emissions requirements on diesel vehicles from the EPA. Other districts in cold climates have found that propane-powered motors perform better in sub-freezing temperatures than diesel engines. Because propane burns far cleaner than diesel, it has also become popular in school districts with environmentally-friendly policy initiatives.
 
There is, however, one notable drawback to propane-powered school buses. It’s not always easy to find a propane refueling station on the road, so these buses aren’t ideal for long field trips or distant sporting events. Until propane refueling options become more widespread, school districts will likely have to keep a few diesel models on hand for long distance trips.
 
Stay tuned for more updates from your premier source for quality new and used buses – Northwest Bus Sales.
 

In West Virginia, School Buses Will Soon Have Wi-Fi

In West Virginia, School Buses Will Soon Have Wi-Fi

These days, you can find internet access just about everywhere – from the local coffee shop down the street to a base camp on Mt. Everest. Soon, you’ll be able to add school buses in Kanawha County, West Virginia to that list. Over the course of the next year, more than 150 buses in the school district will be retrofitted with Wi-Fi.
 
Many students in the rural area have unusually long bus rides, and school administrators hope that if they provide students with internet access on buses, they’ll take the opportunity to complete homework assignments on their rides to and from school. Many parents in the area, however, are not sold on the idea.
 
Some argue that, rather than using the internet to do homework, students will simply surf the web and browse social media sites instead. Others argue that the $63,000 a year it will take to pay for the Wi-Fi could be better spent elsewhere (on new text books and seat belts for school buses, for instance). “There are schools that need books and heat and all this other stuff, but then they want to spend money to put Wi-Fi on a school bus,” said one concerned parent in an interview with local TV news outlet WSAZ.
 
Whether or not the idea will work as administrators have planned remains to be seen. What is sure, however, is that we’re likely to see internet access coming to more buses in the near future. Many cities are already offering free Wi-Fi access in their municipal bus fleets. Soon, rather than being a wasted hour in the day, a commute on a bus could provide passengers with new opportunities for productivity and innovation.
 
Stay tuned for more updates from your premier source for new and used buses – Northwest Bus Sales.
 

In India, the “Uber of Buses” is Easing Chaotic Commutes

In India, the “Uber of Buses” is Easing Chaotic Commutes

Commuting in India’s capital city of Mumbai can be a downright harrowing experience. The streets are notoriously crowded, and public transit is famously unreliable. Bus schedules are unpredictable and the buses themselves are often packed to the brim with uncomfortable passengers. Commute times can vary wildly, and it sometimes takes passengers hours to get to work.
 
Jerin Venad is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology who was tired of spending two hours getting to and from his job at Ernst & Young in Mumbai. After kicking around ideas with a few of his former college classmates, Venad created Cityflo – a service that allows people to reserve spots on privately run buses via a smartphone app. The buses follow many of the most popular public bus routes in the city.
 
To book a ride, all people have to do is select a route and then pay their faire with a digital wallet. Once the reservation is confirmed, Cityflo will text riders with details on the status of their bus. Cityflo’s buses have only been operating for a little over two months, but they’re already receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from their riders.
 
The response has been so good, in fact, that Cityflo just received an additional $733,000 in seed funding from venture capital firm IDG Ventures. Venad and his team plan on using the money to increase the number of routes in Mumbai and expand their service to other cities in India as well. The success of Cityflo has been so impressive that we wouldn’t be surprised to see other similar services crop up here at home as well.
 
Ready to expand the fleet of your own private transit service? View our entire inventory online and see all the new and used options available at Northwest Bus Sales.

Volkswagen Announces Electric Version of Its Iconic Bus

Volkswagen Announces Electric Version of Its Iconic Bus

Since they were originally released in the 1950’s, Volkswagen’s camper buses have always occupied a special place in the hearts of American drivers. In the 1960’s, they became symbols of the counterculture movement. And then, at the end of the 1970’s, imports to the U.S. ceased as production was outsourced to Brazil.
 
Since then, collectors have done their best to preserve the limited number of VW buses left in the States. Volkswagen has made a few attempts at reviving the line over the years, but each time the new models have looked more like minivans than the beloved road tripping hippie mobiles of the 60’s.
 
Soon, however, according to Volkswagen’s development chief Hans-Jakob Neusser, we may see a return to the original design in the form of a new electric version of the camper bus. In a recent interview with Autocar, Neusser identified three particular design ques that he sees as integral to the buses’ aesthetic. “First the wide, solid D-Pillar, second the boxy design of the center section, and thirdly, the front end must have a very short overhang. The distance from the A-pillar to the front end must be very short.”
 
Neusser also confirmed that there would be two versions of the new bus – one of which will be powered by a gasoline engine, while the other will be outfitted with an electric motor. Volkswagen claims that the electric versions will be able to travel about 250-300 miles on a charge. Not too shabby.
 
In the wake of the company’s recent diesel emissions scandal, this electric bus might be just what Volkswagen needs to regain the trust of its customer base. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see if the final design lives up to the expectation.
 

In England, Formula 1 Tech is Making Buses More Efficient

In England, Formula 1 Tech is Making Buses More Efficient

In 2012, the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro won the 24 Hour of Le Mans endurance race with the help of an electric flywheel that converted energy from braking into power for a supplementary electric motor. Called the GKN Hybrid Power Gyrodrive, the flywheel enabled the R18 to conserve fuel throughout the grueling race without sacrificing power.
 
Now, the company that designed the Gyrodrive is selling the technology to a British automotive and aerospace conglomerate that plans to install the devices on 500 buses over the next two years. In preliminary tests, the device was able to cut fuel consumption in buses by as much as 20 percent.
 
The Gyrodrive had to be re-tuned before it could be installed on buses, so the metro transit in London might not feel like a formula 1 racecar, but it will be able to operate far more efficiently. Because city buses make frequent stops during the course of their day-to-day operation, they are ideally suited for these regenerative braking systems. According to Wired, GKN Hybrid is also interested in retrofitting the device onto other municipal vehicles such as garbage trucks. The Gyrodrive weighs in at just over 100 pounds and can be outfitted onto a bus in just a few days.
 
GKN Hybrid hasn’t revealed what they’re charging transit companies for the device, but they have argued that the cost would be entirely recouped in gas savings over three years. The first Gyrodrive-enabled buses will hit the streets in London this year, followed soon by more in cities throughout England. You can see how the Gyrodrive works in the video below from GKN Hybrid.
 

Former Tesla Employee Making Electric City Buses

Former Tesla Employee Making Electric City Buses

Since the company was founded over a decade ago by a pair of bold entrepreneurs, Tesla Motors has continually defied expectations and shattered records with their line of electric cars, changing the way we think about the long-term practicality and potential impact of these futuristic vehicles. Now, a former employee of Tesla is working to make a similar impact on the bus market.
 
Proterra is a Greenville, S.C.-based company that was founded in 2004 by bus industry veteran Dale Hill. By the time Ryan Popple of Tesla joined the team, Proterra was poised to do something truly remarkable. Since then, they’ve created a fully electric bus from the ground up, aiming for Tesla-like innovation and performance.
 
Already, they’ve achieved some truly impressive performance benchmarks. Proterra’s electric buses can travel up to 200 miles on a single charge and then recharge in as little as ten minutes. They’ve also set records for acceleration, grade-climbing and efficiency. Not only that, Proterra’s product holds the distinction of being the lightest electric bus ever made. Of course the features that passengers are most likely to appreciate are its quiet operation and lack of diesel fumes.
 
In addition to the innovations within the buses, Proterra has also introduced wireless charging stations that allow the buses to be quickly and discreetly charged while waiting at bus stops. Major cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas, and Lexington have already started employing the buses in their transit system. By 2016, Proterra hopes to have over 100 of its buses in cities all across the country. Once a second factory is completed in California’s San Gabriel Valley, Proterra will be able to bring even more of its record-breaking buses to a street near you.

Meet Seattle’s Bus-Riding Dog

Last year, Seattle’s Metro Transit system set an all-time ridership record with 120 million people taking trips on the city’s buses. Among these riders was a short, hairy, four-legged and remarkably independent patron who took frequent solo rides to the local dog park. Eclipse, the two-year-old black lab mix who regularly goes on solo adventures on the bus, has become a welcome addition to the city’s thriving transit system.
 
“All the bus drivers know her,” said fellow rider Tiona Rainwater in an interview with local Seattle TV news station KOMO. “She makes everybody happy. How could you not love this face?”
 
The dog’s owner, Jeff Young, explains that Eclipse is a city slicker through and through, and has been riding the bus on her own since she was young. “We get separated. She gets on the bus without me, and I catch up with her at the dog park,” said Young. Since she’s started riding alone, Eclipse has become a regular fixture of many bus riders’ morning commutes.
 
Young appreciates that the rides are not only fun for Eclipse, but for the two-legged patrons on the city buses as well. “It makes their day,” said Young in the interview with KOMO. “It’s a good part of their day and it works out for her so I just let it go.”
 
You can see Eclipse in action in this news segment about the dog from earlier this year. Check it out for yourself here!