Italy’s Wireless Electric Buses


One of the main reasons why electric vehicles are not being viewed to form part of public mass transportation is the need for frequent stops at charging depots. This limitation may soon become a thing of the past, as new technologies especially in the realm of wireless charging technology can make electric vehicles viable for mass transport use. The Weil am Rhein, Germany based company Conductix-Wampfler has introduced the public bus system of the future has been operating in the streets of Italian cities Torino and Genoa for the past ten years.

The Conductix-Wampfler IPT Charge system currently operates on thirty buses in the northern cities of Italy. The main recharging system uses a primary coil charging unit on the road surface of bus stops, terminals and hubs. There is secondary coil attached to the bus chassis that receives the charge. Each time a bus stops at a charging station, the coils are positioned within forty millimeters or about an inch of the half of each other.

Overnight the batteries of these buses are recharged at the bus depot and then recharged at each charging point during the bus route. This topping off would ensure sufficient range available for the battery to reach the next station as this refreshes the system between ten to fifteen percent of the battery capacity according to the German firm. This can even be done when passengers board and exit the vehicles.

The Torino bus route travels about 200 kilometers or 125 miles per day without a need to require a stop for a prolonged period or return to the depot for charging. This is not new, as early as the 1950s through the many urban areas throughout the United States. The electricity was delivered through overhead wires carrying power from the grid to the pivoting relays on the roofs of these buses. Quite a few remain as these electric systems have given way to buses that are powered by internal combustion engines.

The transfer system is done through inductive power transfer that Conductix-Wampfler sends 95 percent of the charge to the secondary coil, with the five percent loss considered as negligible. The central technology here is magnetic resonance coupling, which is also used in charge pads or mat technology in mobile devices. Even with the many companies putting their technological expertise into the field, only a very few companies have lasted for the last ten years successfully.

One of the major concerns is the health effect of the magnetic field on passengers and users. In response, the company says that the passengers and users are situated far from the relay coils and the magnetic field values are below the guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, a nonprofit scientific watchdog group.

Another drawback is the cost of the electric buses compared to the cost of an internal combustion engine bus. Conductix-Wampfler currently estimates that the payback period of about four years at current prices of U.S. $9,000 per year compared to the U.S. $50,000 of diesel fuel vehicles.

Conductix-Wampfler is also working with Daimler to create a plug free charging system for passenger cars. It also has in the offing pilot and test projects of its technologies in two key cities in the United States, namely Los Angeles, CA and Chattanooga, TN.

City Builders Revise Electrical Infrastructure


When the Yons, Kinne and Neal were making plans for an environmentally aware rental tower on 1510 Lexington, they placed a charging station for electric cars. This input was done even before electric cars were even available commercially. Now this small infrastructure input has reaped dividends for their property value.

According to Ms. Yon, “We don’t get paid anything extra to have it in the garage but we think it’s kind of in keeping with going green, and in the future, more cars will be electric cars.” The garage at 1510 Lex also has priority parking spaces for hybrids and all electrics.

Overall, Manhattan has had an explosion of public charging stations for electric vehicles, which now numbers to fifty within the city according to Con Edison. The charging stations are found in parking garages in the Midtown area, Lower Manhattan and the Upper East Side.

The infrastructure is there but there are only a few users of the charging stations in New York City. Yet property developers such as the Albanese Organization continues to include charging stations in its properties, such as rental towers Solaire and Verdesian, the condominium building Visionaire, which are all located in Battery Park, NYC.

According to the VP for Residential Management for the developer, “They’re not frequently used, to be honest with you. And it’s more transient users than your New York-based residents.” This is projected though to change in the next few years.

According to estimates, the number of electric cars would increase significantly in 2012 because of the many automakers and builders that are introducing their version of the electric plug-in vehicles and hybrids. Furthermore, the charging station infrastructure would also become more prevalent, according to Coulomb Technologies CEO Pat Romano. This company builds charging stations with a networking software.

This networking software from Coloumb provides a real-time map of charging stations available online or through mobile phone applications. The information can also be accessed through navigation systems of some car models. The company is working with Albanese to create charging stations for newer electric cars such as the Volt, the Leaf and the BMW ActiveE. The company is also changing the 120-volt chargers to 240 volt Level 2 chargers.

Overall, the bulk of the public charging stations have been built by companies such as Bearn Charging and Car Charging Inc, who specialize in parking garages and other car centered franchises such as rental companies to facilitate construction of the charging stations and provide monthly car charging payment plans for its users. It is projected that the charge up costs would only $98 a month, which is a large savings compared to daily pump prices for gasoline and oil products.

The Phobia of Electric Cars


As the electric car revolution starts to roll, many out of the ordinary stories have started to come up about electric cars and chargers. Amongst them is a Danish town refusing to allow the installation of electric car charging stations, specifically from the battery provider Better Place unless these installations are painted green.

Another story is from the French Ministry for the Environment unveiling guidelines regarding electric car chargers. Among them is the regulation of having only one public charging station per floor of a public parking garage or require parking lot owners to separate electric vehicles being recharged with firewalls.

In another version, the law would require public charging stations to be installed fifty feet apart or placed together in a partially confined space which increases the cost of installing many charging points significantly. The guidelines also covers home charging stations limiting the charging of electric cars on domestic outlets. This means charging from a 230-volt power outlet would be allowed but the government wants to restrict the charging current to 12 amps. This would leave the normal charging time for a car to about twelve hours. Should an owner want to increase the available amperage or have a dedicated hard-wired charging station, they need to pay more and have more inspections. This would definitely increase the overall costs of maintaining and operating an electric car.

The laws were reactions to news reports of electric cars bursting into flames when being charged because of poorly designed battery packs. One report from Hangzhou, China last April showed an electric Zotye Multipla taxi burst into flames. Despite firefighter efforts, the fire could not be controlled and the vehicle quickly turned into a fireball.

In another news report from Barkhamsted, Connecticut, a Chevy Volt is said to the cause of fire in a family garage. According to eyewitness accounts, the electric hybrid vehicle was being charged overnight. The high electricity requirement and the old wiring in the house clearly was a combustible mix, resulting in an overload of the circuit breakers and the consequence of fire.

Thus, in the electric car revolution, there are still many factors and aspects that need to be upgraded to accommodate the needs of the electric car. Not only would the car technology improve, but also accessories such as charging points and home capacity need to be addressed to make the electric car go full blast.