“We don’t contemplate with the electric bus doing any charging in the yard — all the charging will be in-route,” Karbowski says.
“So when that bus comes back to the yard, it basically has to get vaulted and cleaned. It doesn’t have to sit and wait to get fueled. That means it could be available a couple extra hours every day for any kind of maintenance procedures.
“So when you start looking at the grand scheme of things, a larger fleet of these that doesn’t require fueling in the yard means that you could help reduce system costs by lowering your spare ratio because the bus is available more.”
Footing the Bill
One metric Foothill will be monitoring closely is the vehicle’s lifecycle cost, which is especially important with less funding for transit today.
“With the huge impact on funds available for transit we’ve got to be a lot smarter on the technologies that we buy,” Karbowski says.
“The cheapest bus to buy is not necessarily the best deal for transit. So one of the design goals for this bus is to develop a lifecycle model that demonstrates that this bus, we hope, is going to be competitive with other types of alternate fuels technology. But again, it’s over a long lifetime.”
Karbowski says they are currently considering a battery change-out and drive motor change-out at about six years, meaning two change-outs in the bus’ 18-year lifecycle.
“One of the other very interesting things that the automotive industry is pursuing and it could have an impact on transit is the automotive industry is saying, you know since lithium is recyclable why don’t we look at not selling the batteries to people, let’s lease them to them,” Karbowski says.
“That way they know if they buy a vehicle and they want to keep it in service five years or 10 years or 15 years they’ll know that they can always have a battery that’s in top shape by a lease program.
“That might actually be attractive as we start looking at the lifecycle cost for transit, to lease the batteries from a battery manufacturer.”
Karbowski says there are a lot of factors involved with the success or failure of this project, but one thing he is determined to do is make sure everyone knows how they are faring.
“We are facing every problem head up, we make it very public. Because we don’t want anyone to speculate that well you know it’s a niche vehicle, they’re just doing it over here, they’re just doing it for publicity,” he says.
“That’s not the case. We’re putting it in the toughest service. We’re going to run it as hard as we can.
“I don’t want somebody to say yeah its zero emission, but you’re getting electricity from coal-fired power plants. Well, we want to buy only renewable energies so we’re exploring the use of renewable energy credits to use wind, solar, geothermal, any kind of energy but fossil fuel energy to further reduce or eliminate the carbon footprint of this vehicle.
“We have high hopes it's going to change the face of transit vehicle availability particularly in the state of California.”