A Wireless Electric Bus That Charges Instantly At Every Stop

These Utah State University prototypes could be in your city as soon as next year.

Back in September, we told you about electric buses in Geneva that are flash-charged--which means they're rapidly powered up via a laser-directed arm--when they approach a bus stop. Now, researchers at the Utah State University have tested an electric bus that does away with the arm and charges wirelessly through induction. The technology was designed by Utah State University's Wireless Power Transfer Team and the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative's Advanced Transportation Institute.

Here's how it works: on the ground at every bus stop is a plate that recharges the battery-powered bus each time it drives over it. The charging plate doesn't have to charge the battery completely. Instead, it gives just enough of a boost to get the bus to the next stop on the route. The advantages are obvious: zero air pollution and increased fuel savings.

The system is now being commercialized by the Wireless Advanced Vehicle Electrification (WAVE), a Utah State University startup, according to Wired. Prototypes are only in Utah for now, but WAVE is reportedly in discussions with New York, Seattle, and Monterey, California, to introduce the buses by the end of 2014.

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4 Comments

  • mzemelem

    Where does the electricity come from? The electric generating unit may be coal - very polluting. I am tired of the constant side step of this fact. Think life cycle when describing energy systems.

  • greg

    True, coal pollutes.
    There are many reasons though why it is still MUCH better than diesel buses.

    The best bus size diesels are struggling to hit 20% efficiency.
    An average electric motor is 90%+
    An automatic bus transmission eats around 30% of what comes out of the motor.
    Electric direct drive eats less than 5%
    a large coal fired power station with waste heat recovery can get 60%+ of the energy out of the coal for a full cycle that is over twice as efficient ground to road as getting diesel.

    Diesel motors spend a lot of time idling in traffic and at bus stops which is even less efficient. Not so electric.

    Electric can use regenerative braking to capture a lot of energy when slowing, which diesel cannot do.

    Then there is the small matter of pollution location.
    Powerplants are usually out of town not near large populations. Their static nature means exhaust scrubbers are possible.
    Diesels give fine particles that are known to be especially harmful and they puff it out right into the street where people are.

    The pros of electric VASTLY outweigh the cons.

  • mkinla

    Yep. It's a lot easier to capture particulate pollution from one source (ie coal plant) than thousands (ie tail pipes.) Don't think, mzemelem, that the big brains behind the battery revolution don't take full-life cycle costs and benefits into account, just because mainstream media may not cover it.

    Also, way to go Utah State and the Research Initiative!