GE’s Global Research team announced an EV breakthrough today that can open the door to widespread adoption of electrification for heavy haulers like buses, delivery trucks and other big transports — a sector that has long been slow to embrace EVs due to high battery costs and large battery size.
The hybrid systems research team successfully demonstrated a dual battery system on a zero tailpipe emissions hybrid transit bus. The technology — which has the potential to cut battery costs by 20 percent — pairs a sodium battery with a lithium battery — essentially combining the pick-up that today’s passenger EVs have with the power storage that big industrial batteries offer.
Doubling down: Many of the 843,000 buses registered in the U.S. travel less than 100 miles per day. Making more of them all-electric would dramatically reduce CO2 emissions and fuel use.
Most types of batteries today come with a trade-off between power and energy storage. For example, lithium batteries — which are what you’ll be using in your new EV — provide a lot of power for acceleration, but are not optimized to store energy for driving range. Sodium batteries are on the opposite side of the spectrum. They store large amounts of energy, but are less optimized for power. GE’s dual battery combines the best attributes of both chemistries into a single system.
Lembit Salasoo, Senior Electrical Engineer and GE’s Principal Investigator on the hybrid bus project said that that one big problem is that the energy needs of big haulers can very greatly based on a vehicle’s size and drive cycle.
“The beauty of our dual battery system is that it can be scaled to deliver just the right combination of power and storage,” he said. And that is where the cost savings comes from, as eliminating the need to build one battery allows for options tailored for specific types of vehicles.
As Lembit explains in a post on the Global Research blog today, “Right now, our bus has a top speed of 50 mph and about a 60-80 mile range under idealized conditions. The ultimate target is 62 mph and a real-life 100-mile range, while traveling a transit bus route with its multiple stops and starts.”
Charged up: Salasoo is seen here with GE’s ecomagination hybrid locomotive. GE Global Research is the company’s central technology development arm. Its Hybrid Systems Team is a diverse group of some 25 scientists and engineers — a few with more than three decades of experience in electric and hybrid vehicle technologies.
The research is being done as part of a $13 million project with the Federal Transit Administration and the National Fuel Cell Bus Program.
It’s part of a growing hybrid and electric technology portfolio at GE which includes a new battery factory being built in upstate New York; new WattStation EV chargers; and smart-charging partnerships with Nissan and Better Place. GE also announced it would buy 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015 for use in its own fleet and for its fleet customers.
* Read today’s announcement
* Take a look at GE’s other EV research over the years
* Read “The Top 10 Signs EVs Have Gone Mainstream”
* See our infographic on the 10 Best Cities for Electric Vehicles
* See a video clip of the bus in action