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USA: Electric bus rapidly recharges using wireless charge plates at stops

An electric bus has been developed that can recharge wirelessley as it makes each stop, regardless of weather conditions and even if the bus isn’t lined up perfectly with the charge plate.

It’s the practical culmination of earlier research at Utah State University into wireless recharging — in July 2011, the Wireless Power Unit (WPT) at the university had demonstrated a way to transfer five kilowatts of energy across a 25cm gap with 90 percent efficiency using the principle of electric induction. That technology is now mounted on the underside of a bus as a large plate, with another plate mounted in the road next to the bus’s stops. At each stop, the bus takes on charge, meaning electrically powered large vehicles could potentially end up as viable as ones powered by combustion engines.

A problem with making vehicles that drive all day (like buses) electric is that they eventually have to recharge, and that means either accepting gaps in service while that recharging takes place or investing in several vehicles to cover a route which previously only needed one. The charge plates developed by the WPT team can handle a peak transfer of 25 kilowatts, and usefully it can handle a misalingment of up to 15.24cm. That means the bus driver doesn’t have to stop at a precise point to charge, which would negate the usefulness of a system which otherwise doesn’t require fiddly cables or other equipment.

The 12-metre-long bus is expected to go into operation on Utah State University’s campus, with the charge capacity increased to 50 kilowatts. The project to develop the charging mechanism was funding by a £1.6 million grant from the US Federal Transport Authority, so presumably this technology is planned for greater things than just a university hopper bus. Wesley Smith, the CEO of Wave (a company affiliated with Utah State University which was involved in the WPT’s development), was quoted as saying that he expects that “on certain routes” the bus will be “cheaper than gasoline” — potentially as much as a fifth cheaper.


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