TOSA electric bus

Electric transportation systems are one step closer to becoming integrated into urban populations.

Current battery technology has limited trolleybuses, necessitating that they stay connected to a cumbersome web of cables at all times in order to remain charged throughout the day. However, this may all be changing soon after a successful pilot operation recently concluded in Geneva, Switzerland, using a cable-free electric bus system called TOSA.

“The batteries on-board the buses have twice the energy of an electric car battery, but are small enough to fit on the roof.”

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) have developed an electric bus that can recharge itself in just 15 seconds at a stop in what’s being called “flash” recharging. It’s a green infrastructure alternative that provides buses that are not only zero emissions, but are also able to roam free of cable tethers. These overhead wires can be a major inconvenience to the residents of buildings where the wires are attached. And TOSA buses are able to adapt their routes in the case of an accident or heavy traffic.

Bus battery

The batteries on-board the buses have twice the energy of an electric car battery, but are small enough to fit on the roof. Once a bus pulls into a charging station, a robotic arm on the roof zips up and engages, giving the battery 15 seconds of recharging time — about the same amount of time it takes passengers to board and exit the bus. It gives the bus enough energy to get to the next recharging station on the route, though the researchers haven’t specified how many miles the vehicle would be able to travel or how far away the next charging station would need to be.

The researchers are still investigating this very question, trying to create a framework of necessary charging stations that would need to be installed in order to keep the network of buses running reliably and on-time. These recharging stations would be installed along the normal bus route, and would ideally be a cost-saving investment that reduces the amount of infrastructure needed versus the traditional method for powering trolleys. The other question researchers are factoring into their design is what happens when two bus routes converge, seeing as the charging station can only charge a single bus at a time.