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2011 Electric Bus Procurement


Busjack
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Doesn't that seem wasteful to grant $2.2 million to buy only 2 electric buses? I really don't understand what's the big deal in this. That money could be used to buy several hybrid buses or more importantly, help fix broke CTA.

However, this would seem to be a criticism of the stimulus bill* or TIGGER in general, rather than the CTA.

If the federal government wants to print money to subsidize energy conservation, that's its business. It is also its business if it thinks that CTA can run a credible test on this bus. If the test is successful, maybe production models will be less.

This certainly wasn't unrestricted grant money that could be used for general capital or operating purposes.

I was thinking more on the lines that electricity doesn't necessarily reduce greenhouse emissions, if the electricity comes from a coal fired plant, but that may be another dispute.

* BTW, I thought that the ARRA money had been exhausted, which it has, but the FTA page cited above indicates that TIGGER got another appropriation.

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However, this would seem to be a criticism of the stimulus bill* or TIGGER in general, rather than the CTA.

If the federal government wants to print money to subsidize energy conservation, that's its business. It is also its business if it thinks that CTA can run a credible test on this bus. If the test is successful, maybe production models will be less.

This certainly wasn't unrestricted grant money that could be used for general capital or operating purposes.

I was thinking more on the lines that electricity doesn't necessarily reduce greenhouse emissions, if the electricity comes from a coal fired plant, but that may be another dispute.

* BTW, I thought that the ARRA money had been exhausted, which it has, but the FTA page cited above indicates that TIGGER got another appropriation.

TIGER (Funds from ARRA) have been exhausted. TIGGER and TIGER II funds are now annual approriations.

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If they haven't picked a manufacturer yet, then what is this picture from? The livery looks like a twist on the CTA Red, White and Blue scheme and there is a CTA logo on the side. We don't yet have sliding doors on our fleet.

That appears to be the DesignLine that was tested here a couple of years ago, discussed in this thread.

One should know by now that the news media uses any file photography, regardless of relevance. In fact this was foreshadowed in this post.

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  • 1 month later...

I can only find one site that makes all-electric Transit Buses at this time. The company is called Ebus, site here. The only possible hangup on two buses from this manufacturer are the buses are only 22-ft. long, 8-ft. shorter than the Optimas. They are located in Downey, California. Even though the CTA has mentioned using these buses on shorter runs, I don't think a 22-ft. 22 seat bus will do.

I guess they have an "all electric bus," but they were talking about it being for circulators, and having a 45 mile range. They also said that their bus was $295,000, while the grant was for $1 million each.

Hence, while I was talking probably experimental, I doubt that this is it. Also, I doubt that it will be limited to a domestic producer.

Also, after catching myself--Please use the correct topic.

Further update: I wonder if this video, supposedly showing the application of Ebus technology to a Las Vegas NABI is just puffery, or something real. I'm betting on the former.

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According to the press release, the 2 buses are supposed to be 40 footers. Kind of surprising, New Flyer doesn't make an all electric bus? I would think something would come from that direction. Being that they have a history in experimentation, thinking of the Ballard buses here about 10 years ago. Most of the other names you would think of like Ebus mentioned above would be better for the smaller passenger loads.

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... Kind of surprising, New Flyer doesn't make an all electric bus? ... Being that they have a history in experimentation, thinking of the Ballard buses here about 10 years ago. ...

The thing that has to be considered is that the fuel cell buses were a partnership between CTA, New Flyer, and Ballard. Similarly, an all electric bus would be experimental and probably a similar collaboration, rather than saying that some manufacturer has an electric bus to sell "off the shelf."

I was reminded of the 5900s when seeing Ebus saying that they were in the fuel cell bus business. IIRC, CTA's 3 lasted maybe three years, and NF and Ballard were not able to get another 3 tested. Someone at Chicago Garage may have better info regarding the first point.

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The thing that has to be considered is that the fuel cell buses were a partnership between CTA, New Flyer, and Ballard. Similarly, an all electric bus would be experimental and probably a similar collaboration, rather than saying that some manufacturer has an electric bus to sell "off the shelf."

I was reminded of the 5900s when seeing Ebus saying that they were in the fuel cell bus business. IIRC, CTA's 3 lasted maybe three years, and NF and Ballard were not able to get another 3 tested. Someone at Chicago Garage may have better info regarding the first point.

From what I heard of the #5900's, one died ahead of the others, possibly the one that didn't get wrapped in blue if you look at pictures of them at 77th. I know the other two ran right up til the end on the #20 and #66. Never did see one on the #65. On your first point though, you are probably right when you say it's going to be a joint effort between different companies. To be experimental there going to need a company dealing with science and technology because that technology just doesn't exist yet on the open market.

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I thought it was just a total sham to see those three #5900 series Ballard/New Flyers wearing CTA colors only lasting about three years on the streets then next thing you know theyre sitting down at 77th just falling into a decrepit state. I thought the program was a total sham. Nothing else ever became of those buses.

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.... I thought the program was a total sham. Nothing else ever became of those buses.

Again, IIRC, there was a request for bids to repower them as diesel, which was withdrawn.

Of course, the one documented thing that became of the transaction was that Belcaster was forced out because he had a secret investment in Ballard while the test was ongoing. The article also sort of confirms what I said earlier about a no bid contract.

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The thing that has to be considered is that the fuel cell buses were a partnership between CTA, New Flyer, and Ballard. Similarly, an all electric bus would be experimental and probably a similar collaboration, rather than saying that some manufacturer has an electric bus to sell "off the shelf."

Agreed. This is speculation on my part of course but the electric buses or BEV buses will probably consist of a body built by a US manufacturer and a propulsion system from another country. For example Beijing is running 12m/40' BEV units (photo with description) which can get 118 miles on a 4 hour charge. Therefore I would imagine a manufacturer in another country that already has this type of engine unit and technology in regular service would be a prime candidate to partner with.

Ideally of course there would still be ETBs cruising Chicago streets and the grant would be paying for new E40LFRs instead of sinking $$ into another experiment.

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Agreed. This is speculation on my part of course but the electric buses or BEV buses will probably consist of a body built by a US manufacturer and a propulsion system from another country. For example Beijing is running 12m/40' BEV units (photo with description) which can get 118 miles on a 4 hour charge. Therefore I would imagine a manufacturer in another country that already has this type of engine unit and technology in regular service would be a prime candidate to partner with.

Ideally of course there would still be ETBs cruising Chicago streets and the grant would be paying for new E40LFRs instead of sinking $ into another experiment.

I don't know whether there is someone with the battery technology here or somewhere else. I'm sure there would be a big political uproar if CTA were saying that it was sending US government funds to China.

It seems from this description that the bus would minimally meet Chicago requirements with regard to kilometerage, but if you are talking about a fleet, the cost would have to come down from about $1.1 million to at least the about $600K price of a 40 foot hybrid.

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  • 4 months later...

With the Tribune reporting that the CTA is going to test 2 Electric Buses for one year, does this mean the CTA has picked a Manufacturer for these two buses? In the report, they say the buses will be 35-40 ft. buses. The CTA will set up charging facilities at the end of Routes or at the Bus Garages, due to the Lithium-Ion Battery only allowing for a Bus to travel 30-40 miles on a charge.

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What doesn't make sense is that it was previously reported that the grant was $2.2 million for two buses (now Hilkevitch claims that also includes charging stations), but now it is said that it is for only a one year test. Heck, I know why the Tribune brought this up 6 months later; this CTA Press Release.

If the federal government is blowing $2.2 million and, after a year, the buses are going to sit in the 77th yards with the 3 fuel cell ones that have sat there for about 13, I can see why Congress now wants to cut off stimulus funding.

Of course, CTA can't be in much of a hurry either, if it is not going out to bids until the end of the year, and hence, if it is not going out for bids until then, no manufacturer has been selected yet.

If they are going out to bids by the end of this year, don't expect anything until the end of 2012.

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I just wonder who's going to bid on the job. None of the well-known Transit Bus Manufacturers(NOVABus, NABI, New Flyer) make all-Electric Buses. Closest New Flyer and NOVABus come to it is a Diesel/Electric Hybrid Bus. NABI.... well, they won't even be in the running for the bid(so whether or not they've manufactured a All-Electric Bus becomes moot), and even if they throw their hat in the ring, the CTA will throw it right out, after the whole 60-LFW Fiasco of Feburary, 2009. It's got to be New Flyer or NOVABus, because according to the article, the CTA is looking for a 35-40 ft. Electric Bus. I suppose the ElDorado Company(don't know if that's the manufacturer of those PACE Buses or not) could also be in the running if they make a All-Electric Bus.

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As usual, you assume the conventional companies, and they don't provide their own powertrains for any of their buses. The fuel cell buses were New Flyer, but obviously that was only the shell, and the equipment was Ballard.

More than likely, an experimental company will provide the entire bus (see, e.g., eBus or Proterra), or the components to some other assembler (cf. the modifier of the Ford chassis paratransits). There seem to be directories of other suppliers, mostly Asian.

I was going to say that just like DesignLine furnished a larger bus to NY MTA, one of these companies could furnish a larger bus to CTA. However, looking into that, the blogosphere indicates that the DesignLine test was a failure in NY.

Which sort of gets me to the point I made in the earlier post, that with CTA getting a grant without specifications or a proposed manufacturer, for a 1 year test, I really don't see this working either, especially if the range is limited to 40 miles, as indicated. Maybe it could handle a rush hour run in the Forest Glen area, but really not much else.

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As usual, you assume the conventional companies, and they don't provide their own powertrains for any of their buses. The fuel cell buses were New Flyer, but obviously that was only the shell, and the equipment was Ballard.

More than likely, an experimental company will provide the entire bus (see, e.g., eBus or Proterra), or the components to some other assembler (cf. the modifier of the Ford chassis paratransits). There seem to be directories of other suppliers, mostly Asian.

I was going to say that just like DesignLine furnished a larger bus to NY MTA, one of these companies could furnish a larger bus to CTA. However, looking into that, the blogosphere indicates that the DesignLine test was a failure in NY.

Which sort of gets me to the point I made in the earlier post, that with CTA getting a grant without specifications or a proposed manufacturer, for a 1 year test, I really don't see this working either, especially if the range is limited to 40 miles, as indicated. Maybe it could handle a rush hour run in the Forest Glen area, but really not much else.

I'd have to agree about the one year test. It does seem like a waste to spend all that federal cash on a one year test, especially with the failure of Designline's bus. It would seem somewhat smarter to offer a potential small contract to a company that could prove indeed they have a viable bus after a year of testing in a real life setting or environment. Can't they try a bus out like what happened with Designline's test here? Or if they did and it failed get a deal like the New Yorkers and get the company (like Designline) to buy back the bus in case of failure. There would be many questions to a project like this like what would they do with the infrastructure in place after the test was over. How could they charge a bus at a terminal (they only have 5 -10 minutes layover) unless they jumped buses at the terminal? With no bus passing the grade so far in the 35/40 foot catagory, i don't know if there ready to move up the this next level yet. Seems as if it's destined to fail.

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The Tribune article linked in the first post also lists that there are tests being done in Burbank, Ca. and San Antonio, Tx. To give you an idea of what's out there in this market, Burbank has tested many buses over the years with APS Systems. They claim to have an active test with them on a 26 foot electric bus. And they also had a test in 2009 with a Proterra HFC35 Hybrid - Electric bus. Currently, San Antonio is getting these all electric buses from Proterra as well as Burbank. So they seem to be the most likeliest candidate for a bus of this type.

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The Burbank one depicted on the CTA Tattler sure looks like the Proterra. The APS one to which you linked was a gas/electric hybrid.

Your point about having a charger at the terminal makes sense, but unless it could really push high voltage, is going to take a long time to charge that bus.

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The Burbank one depicted on the CTA Tattler sure looks like the Proterra. The APS one to which you linked was a gas/electric hybrid.

Your point about having a charger at the terminal makes sense, but unless it could really push high voltage, is going to take a long time to charge that bus.

APS seems to be into the lower footage buses. The 26 footer is all electric. I just basically gave you a timeline of evolution of the company. Proterra is more of what the bid is asking for though. (35/40 footer)

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I think I know what the Electric Test Buses will be.... New Flyers!!! There's a company called Electric Fuel Transportation Corp. that takes standard-sized 40' Buses and mounts the EFTC Zinc-Air Fuel Cell into the Bus.

Site Here

This company is based in New York.

This is my speculation:

I would think the CTA will procure two New Flyer 40LFR Shells from New Flyer in MN, have them transported to Electric Fuel Transportation Corp where they'll install the Electric Engines, and have them shipped to Chicago to start testing, which will designate them New Flyer E40LFR's.

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