“Today it’s a very expensive proposition because the cost of these energy storage systems is very high,” Sanders points out. “We don’t make the cells, but we make the system and we put the cells in the system and then all the software, controls and vehicle interface.”
Today they’re using ultracapacitors for energy storage with the average sales price (ASP) at about $35 thousand. “As we move in to the battery-dominate or plug-in, ASPs will go up and the type of energy storage will go up,” explains Sanders. “As you get into an all-electric, the energy storage for an all-electric bus is like $400,000; so you’re not going to sell too many of them today.
“That’s why we think this small APU, like a 40 horsepower motor and a larger energy storage have a lot of merit.”
Using some examples, he further explains how the blended system works. Looking at ultracapacitor base technology today, there is very low storage capability but you get a million cycles of life and high power, 200 kW per half hour. You can put a 1,500 kW ultranano pack together for about the same price, a little bit more, but it only gets you 12,000 cycle life and it doesn’t give you the power rating.
When you go to a high-energy base system, you drop down in cycle life to maybe 6,000 and your C ratings are very low, so you can’t recapture much, you’re not as efficient. But, you have a lot more storage capability.
So then when you blend it, you see a very compelling case. Looking at one case with a 12-year life, efficiency of 95 percent, it’s about $40,000. With an ultranano pack, a 15 kW-hour system, it only has a three-year life and 80 percent efficient, at about $70,000.
“If I blend it together with Maxwell and ultranano, the life goes up to beyond 18 years,” says Sanders. “It’s 94 percent efficient, it’s incrementally not very much more, but your cost for energy storage goes down from $23,000 per year to $6,000. That’s huge.”
He adds, “We have some patents in this area and it’s quite complex with lots of DC to DC conversion going on. That’s where we see a very compelling case as we go down this path more and more until you get a blended system that brings your total costs of ownership way down.”
Transit is the first mover in the market with hybrid vehicles because the hybrid systems are still quite expensive because it’s so early in the market, and the transit space is heavily subsidized. It’s also a great application because of transit’s high stop and go’s.
“The trucking industry is 15 times the size of the North American transit market and we see traction currently in that space, but it’s a much smaller adoption rate because it’s not subsidized,” Sanders says. Though they have delivered refuse trucks to the Department of Sanitation in New York.
Carolyn Paynton, marketing & communications manager with ISE, says, “They’ve been really successful. We have the ultracapacitors in there for that stop and go, but those aren’t cheap, but some really first-class trash trucks.” She adds, “They really love them in New York.”
“This is essentially the core areas that we have invested in over a period of time that we will continue to invest in and those core technologies have been applied in the transit industry, because this transit industry in North America is the first adopter,” Sanders says. “It’s not necessarily where we, ISE, are in the transit business. We are now because 90 percent of our business is there.”
He adds that there are other applications, “selling energy storage systems or electronics as components to other applications: stationary mining, windmills, you name it, so that’s future potential for our growth.”
Adapting to Change
Talking again about people adapting to change, we talk about agencies working with hybrid technology. With hybrid systems being more complex than the standard diesel engine, agencies don’t necessarily want to change unless they have to so introducing new technology to new locations is a learning curve.
“They have to train their maintenance operators to a new level of technology and certainly that’s a challenge,” Sanders says. “I think right now it’s about 30 percent of all new transit vehicles are hybrid and expected in a few years to be 50 percent.” He stresses, “That’s not an experiment any longer.”