It’s easy to understand why some people hate public transportation. Most city buses use large diesel engines that are are loud and smelly, but pure-electric buses are too expensive for most cash-strapped cities to afford. Utah-based electric bus company WAVE might have a solution for electric buses, using a clever wireless-charging system that dramatically reduces battery size and cost.
Developed in conjunction with the University of Utah and commercialized first in Park City, Utah, WAVE got its start powering buses around the university campus. The technology uses inductive charging to wirelessly transfer energy between the charger and the bus. This is nothing exactly groundbreaking here, with other projects in places like South Korea displaying similar ideas.
The difference is that WAVE uses very small, limited-range batteries with wireless chargers at regular intervals. This cuts down on battery size, which cuts down on cost, and also reduces charging times as well. The batteries are big enough to last a full 16-hour workday with just a few stops over charging pads. Keep in mind that even though buses are big, electric motors provide full-torque at 0 RPM, and most buses never see speeds higher than 40 mph.
As it stands, WAVE currently has test fleets in several U.S. cities, and is working on the installation of a ten-bus system in Long Beach, California. WAVE is looking to expand offerings in another 10 to 20 U.S. cities in the next year, and it could do that thanks to the most-appealing aspect of the system; the ability to retrofit old city buses. With a gallon-equivalent of electricity selling for 65-cents, compared to almost $4 a gallon for diesel, cities that convert their buses to electric systems could save millions of dollars per year with ease.
Could WAVE’s business model be the breakthrough electric buses have been waiting for?