An electrically powered public transportation system with neither overhead cables nor battery life issues has become the vision for the Israeli defense giant Elbit Systems.
Elbit is developing an electric bus charging system that would allow vehicles to boost their batteries at their terminal stations. There, the buses would connect to supercapacitors that charge the buses quickly so that they can operate for precisely calculated distances, the company said.
Supercapacitors, as opposed to batteries, store electric charge rather than housing an electrochemical reaction.
Until a decade ago, electric vehicle propulsion was only possible in cities where there was a high-power network with overhead cable infrastructure. While batteries and supercapacitors have allowed electric buses some independence from the grid, the rapid electricity depletion of these units has posed a challenge to the industry.
Most urban bus lines in Israel only travel about 10 km. on their routes, repeating the journeys again and again throughout the day. Elbit’s supercapacitors aim to power buses for one full route, allowing them to recharge in the span of less than a minute at the vehicle’s terminal stop, the company explained. As passengers descend from and board the bus, the vehicle will quickly become fully charged for another route.
Each charging station would be able to handle about 60 buses per hour, and during normal business hours the charging stations could be powered by green electricity sources like solar energy, Elbit said.
For lines whose routes are longer than 10 km., it will be possible to install charging stations at additional pickup stations, the company said.
“Elbit Systems believes that the integration of supercapacitors into public transportation will provide a transportation solution that is quiet, reliable and pollution- free,” said Yehuda Borenstein, manager of the energy group at Elbit.
“We believe that a systemic solution to public transportation that includes power generation from green sources, electric buses based on supercapacitors, fast charging stations and intelligent communication systems that connect customers to the transportation system is the best economic and environmental alternative to public transportation systems in Israel and around the world,” he said.
Elbit representatives will present their innovation at the Fuel Choices Summit, set to take place in Tel Aviv between December 3 and December 4. Alternative transportation experts from around the world will gather at the summit, hosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his office’s Alternative Fuels Administration, to discuss new technologies and business models for implementing such innovations.
This is the second year that the Prime Minister’s Office has hosted the summit, but this year’s conference will focus particularly on the transportation sector.
“There is an interconnectivity between what is going on in the energy sector and the transportation sector,” Eyal Rosner, chairman of the Alternative Fuels Administration, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Participants will focus on how transportation is changing and how this impacts people’s behavior, Rosner explained.
As far as public transportation is concerned, Rosner said that his administration has identified electric buses as a good solution for the sector, keeping in mind the importance of calculating the exact amount of energy each route requires.
Thus far, the country has one fully electric bus, made by Chinese firm BYD and running on Dan’s No. 5 bus in Tel Aviv. While the bus is doing well, the Alternative Fuels Administration is looking into a wide range of technologies that can contribute to the future overhaul of public transportation.
Although electric buses are economic in their energy use and minimal maintenance requirements, the question remains how long the batteries will last before replacement, Rosner explained.
The AFA has therefore challenged Elbit to make its system economic, he said. The first model will come out in about a year, and will start being implemented only on shorter routes, with the goal of eventually moving to longer routes, he added.
A bus and supercapacitor charging station package will need to cost roughly the same as a diesel counterpart, Rosner said.
The Fuel Choices Summit is set to feature exhibitions of Israeli technology in the alternative fuels sector, as well as a competition for new entrepreneurs in the industry.
The winning entrepreneurs will receive a spot at the newly launched fuel substitutes accelerator housed at Tel Aviv University, Rosner said.
In addition, Netanyahu is set to present this year’s $1 million Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation in Alternative Fuels for Transportation to Prof.
Michael Grätzel of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and Prof. Thomas Meyer of the University of North Carolina.
Rosner said he hopes the summit will allow people from all over the world to exchange ideas in the sector while exposing them to Israeli technology.
“We want people to share best practices,” he said.