CA: Wireless Charging System Brings New Potential for Electric Buses in Transit

The Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) is moving forward with cutting edge technology that will allow the transit system to charge its electric buses while they are in revenue service. 

The board of directors voted unanimously on Feb. 25, to award a $670,000 contract to Wave Inc. for two in-ground inductive charging stations.  The board also authorized an additional $495,500 for multiple construction contracts associated with the installation of the wireless system.

The new technology will enable AVTA to run its two electric buses for the same number of hours its diesel buses currently operate each day.   A 50 KW charging station will be installed at each of AVTA’s two main transfer centers located at Lancaster City Park and the Palmdale Transportation Center.  Each station has the capability of charging up to four buses an hour giving AVTA the potential for growth in the year ahead.

Growth is an important consideration as the AVTA Board of Directors has developed a strategic directive to move forward with electric bus technology.  AVTA aims to replace up to 25 aging diesel buses with electric buses over the next four years, subject to funding availability and operational requirements.  

“The board of directors strongly supports alternative energy and electric buses are the logical next step in transit.” stated board Chair Norm Hickling.  “We are excited to be out in front of this emerging technology and are confident our analysis is strong and our outcomes will be successful.     

The AVTA is seeking discretionary grant funding to cover the incremental cost difference between electric buses and clean diesel buses through the Department of Transportation’s Low or No Emissions Vehicle Deployment Program (NoLo).  They intend to aggressively pursue other grant opportunities such as TIGER to purchase as many electric buses as possible.

“We plan to make a concerted effort to apply for any and all discretionary funding, now and in the future,” remarked Executive Director Julie Austin.  “We have a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate electric bus technology here in the Antelope Valley, with our flat terrain and four seasons.”

Thanks to the generosity of Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, AVTA received $1.9 million in local funds to purchase its first two electric buses. This funding allowed AVTA to acquire two buses through an assignment from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s contract with BYD

Importantly for AVTA, BYD manufactures these buses in Southern California, in the same city as AVTA’s operations.  AVTA is in the process of hiring a project engineer to facilitate fleet conversion to electric buses. 

The Wave technology is seen as the most exciting aspect of this program as it relies on new technology that eliminates the need for a hard wire when charging.  The hard wire limitation has slowed the inclusion of electric buses into transit fleets nationwide because of the reduced operating time associated with a single battery charge.  The Wave inductive charging system requires a bus to park on top of an electromagnet during its recovery time in order for the wireless charging to occur. As a result, zero emission buses can remain in revenue service as long as their diesel counterparts. 

The technology is extremely safe because the electromagnetic waves have very little reach past the device it wirelessly couples with underneath the bus.   Wave Inc. is the only contractor in the U.S. that can provide a proven operational version of the technology.  A prototype 25kW charging station is currently in operation at the University of Utah.  Wave representatives anticipate providing a 200kW charging station in the year to come which will reduce the amount of time a bus needs to charge its battery over the electromagnetic pad.  The inductive charging system is expected to reduce reliance on large heavy batteries that are currently in use on electric buses.