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3 Types of Electric Vehicles for Your Transit Agency

With the increasing demand for sustainable transportation, more and more transit agencies are considering turning their fleet electric. The benefits are clear: zero emissions, reduced pollution, and lower operating costs in the long run. But with so many different types of electric vehicles to choose from, it can be challenging to decide which one is right for your transit agency. In this blog, we will explore three types of electric vehicle buses that are gaining popularity in the industry and the pros and cons of each option.

Battery Electric Vehicle Bus (BEV)

The battery electric vehicle bus is perhaps the most well-known type of electric bus. As the name suggests, it uses a battery pack to charge, typically made of lithium-ion batteries. There are various charging methods available, such as a plug-in, inductive, or conductive pantograph, and the charging can be done either on route or overnight.

One of the most significant advantages of BEVs is that they are zero-emission vehicles without any pollution. They also have a range of up to 100-150 miles on a single charge, taking around 2.5-6 hours to charge depending on the method used.

However, the amount of energy consumed by electric buses varies depending on a few factors, including the route's topography and whether the air conditioning or heat is running. A test showed that 18-meter electric buses used between 1.65 and 1.84 kilowatt-hours per kilometer traveled, taking into account the energy consumption of air conditioning.

Pros of BEVs

  • Zero emissions, which can help improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Lower operating costs compared to diesel buses due to lower fuel and maintenance costs
  • Quiet operation, which can reduce noise pollution in urban areas
  • Improved energy efficiency compared to traditional diesel buses

Pros of BEVs

  • Limited range, which can be a concern for longer routes or trips
  • Long charging time, which can limit the vehicle's productivity and require additional infrastructure investment
  • Higher upfront costs due to the cost of batteries and other electric components
  • Battery disposal and recycling can be a concern due to the potential environmental impact


Hybrid Electric Vehicle Bus (HEV)

The hybrid electric vehicle bus uses both diesel and electricity to power the vehicle. When the driver brakes, the hybrid system captures the kinetic energy and stores it for later use when required for propulsion. The next time the bus accelerates, the stored energy is fed back to the driving wheels, reducing the load on the engine and saving fuel.

There are two types of HEVs: parallel and series. In a parallel hybrid bus, the combustion engine and the electric motor are connected to the transmission independently. During stop-and-go traffic, the electric motor provides power, while the internal combustion engine powers the transmission at highway speeds. Both the electric motor and the combustion engine power the transmission during acceleration. Through a process called regenerative braking, energy lost due to braking is recovered and utilized to charge the battery.

On the other hand, a series hybrid bus is exclusively propelled by an electric motor. The internal combustion engine is connected to an electric generator that converts the energy produced by the engine into electric power, which powers the motor that turns the wheels. The generator also recharges a battery pack that provides supplemental power to the motor. Since the engine is not connected to the wheels, it can operate at an optimum rate and can even be switched off for short periods of time for a temporary all-electric operation of the bus.

Pros of HEVs

  • Lower emissions compared to diesel buses, which can help improve air quality
  • Improved fuel efficiency and reduced fuel consumption compared to traditional diesel buses
  • Quieter operation compared to diesel buses, which can reduce noise pollution in urban areas
  • Regenerative braking technology can help improve energy efficiency

Cons of HEVs

  • Higher upfront costs compared to traditional diesel buses
  • Complex technology can require specialized maintenance and repair
  • Limited all-electric range, which can limit the vehicle's fuel efficiency and emissions reductions potential
  • Dependence on both diesel fuel and electric power sources can lead to higher fuel costs compared to BEVs

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Bus (FCEV)

The hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle bus is a hybrid electric bus that combines a hydrogen fuel cell with batteries or capacitors. In this hybrid architecture, the fuel cell provides all of the energy for vehicle operation, while the batteries or capacitors can provide peak power to the motors to meet rapid acceleration and gradients. By using a fuel cell in conjunction with a battery, the size of each can be optimized for a given route.

One of the major benefits of FCEVs for transit agencies is that they only produce water and heat, making them even cleaner than BEVs. They also have a range of up to 300 miles on a single charge, and they can be refueled in as little as 7 minutes at a typical hydrogen refueling station. FCEVs are also quieter than diesel buses, reducing noise pollution in urban areas.

Pros of FCEVs

  • Zero emissions, which can help improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Fast refueling times compared to BEVs, which can improve productivity and reduce downtime
  • Long range, which can improve route flexibility and reduce range anxiety
  • Reduced noise pollution due to the quiet operation of fuel cells

Cons of FCEVs

  • Higher upfront costs compared to traditional diesel buses and BEVs
  • Limited availability of hydrogen refueling infrastructure can limit deployment
  • Complex technology can require specialized maintenance and repair
  • Hydrogen production can require significant energy inputs and can result in greenhouse gas emissions if not produced sustainably

Transition Your Mission to Zero-Emission

Transitioning to zero-emission buses (ZEBs) is not only environmentally responsible, but it is also a cost-effective solution for transit agencies. As electric bus technology continues to improve, more and more transit agencies are turning to electric buses as a viable alternative to traditional fossil fuel-powered buses.

When transitioning to electric buses, transit agencies need to carefully consider their specific needs and choose the type of bus that will work best for them. They also need to optimize the performance of their electric buses to ensure that they are reliable and cost-effective. This is where TransTrack's ZEB module can help.

TransTrack's ZEB Module provides transit agencies with key insights into the performance of their electric buses, including battery life, charging times, and energy consumption. With this information, agencies can optimize their routes and charging schedules to ensure that their electric buses are running at peak performance. The ZEB module also provides real-time alerts and notifications, allowing agencies to quickly respond to any issues that arise. With the help of TransTrack's ZEB module, agencies can gain the necessary knowledge to optimize the performance of their electric buses and ensure a successful transition. 

Schedule a demo with our team of transit experts to explore the ZEB Module.


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