Cities go electric for zero fumes

2014-08-07 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL is a late-comer to rapid bus transport (BRT), but work on eThewkini’s R22 billion BRT plan is going ahead and in Msunduzi consultations are under way.

The track record of implementing BRT systems in other cities shows it takes a lot of fuming before the chaotic, but effective, swarming system of minibuses can be replaced by predictable, linear lanes, on which a bus runs every 10 minutes.

While the operators debate, the vehicle suppliers are watching with interest how world cities, in which rapid bus services are already in place, are now moving away from internal combustion engines. The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) has in June released a white paper, Transportation Electrification: Utility Fleets Leading the Charge, which lists the “quadruple win” for cities that do convert from “ice” (internal combustion engines) to “evees” (electric vehicles).

CEO and president of Portland General Electric and co-chairs of the EEI Electric Transportation Task Force, Jim Piro, said “plug-in cars and trucks can make good business sense, whether you’re a utility or any other business that operates a fleet of vehicles”.

The paper states electrification of transport fleets help to support environmental goals, build customer satisfaction, reduce operating costs and assure the future value of existing assets.

Chinese company BYD, (Build You Own Dream) is the unsung hero of the electric bus lane. The company has sold thousands of their 12-metre buses around the world. In China, two cities in March recently signed an total order for 1 800 the BYD buses, which are already operating in cities in Canada, India, North America, Malaysia and The Netherlands.

The blog reports the Malaysian operator, Prasarana Transit, gets over 400 km per charge from a single charge in a BYD buses. London is not going the BYD route and is instead testing buses custom-built for the city by Hinduja Group, a global company based in London.

Six electric, single-deck buses are currently on test as the first step in London’s plan to have 300 electric buses operating in central London from 2020. Over 1 000 of London’s older buses are also being retrofitted with selective catalytic reductors that cuts harmful oxides of nitrogen (NOx) from the exhaust by up to 88%.

Fiona Woolf, the lord mayor of London, said: “We are a world away from the thick and filthy fogs of Victorian London — and even from the post-war peasoupers, which in December 1952 alone caused the deaths of thousands of Londoners and directly affected the health of 100 000 more. But we have a long way to go before London’s air quality is at the levels we want to see.”

Back in Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the pall of smog hanging over our cities will remain long after BRT plans have been put in place, unless our BRT system also starts using electric motors.

Advantages of ‘evee’ over ‘ice’

Electric-based vehicles in fleets:

• reduce operating costs for fuel and maintenance;

• extend useful lives of the units based on their mechanical simplicity;

• improve crew communication and safety through noise reduction;

• extend work hours of crews performing non-emergency work in communities with noise restrictions;

• reduce carbon emissions; and

• provide another avenue to engage customers about the product.

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