TOSA e-bus enables breakthrough environmentally friendly commuting in Geneva

Silence and zero-emissions with a 15-second charge time.

If you thought that charging electric vehicles was all about fiddling with charger cables followed by long and unproductive waits, then think again.

ABB, together with partners, has developed technology that not only automatically flash charges an electric bus in 15 to 20 seconds, but also provides high transportation capacity and energy efficiency. The bus connects to an overhead high-power charging contact when it pulls into a stop and tops up its batteries during the time its passengers are embarking and disembarking. The system is inherently safe because the overhead connectors are only energized when they are engaged, and the electromagnetic fields associated with inductive charging concepts are avoided.

E-bus route scheduled to be operational by 2018

The signing of the TOSA contract

The Swiss city of Geneva has run a pilot with this technology since May 2013. Such has been the success of this pilot that the city is now going to run a full bus route, called Line 23. The Geneva Public Transport operator (TPG) has just signed a contract with ABB and the Swiss bus manufacturer HESS to deliver an operational line by the spring of 2018.

For urban transport planners, around the world are looking for ways to avert gridlock and reduce pollution, the electric TOSA bus system is an attractive model for mass urban transportation. It is quiet, entirely emissions free and uses long-life, compact batteries, while the visual clutter of overhead lines and pylons that is often a barrier to trolleybus acceptance is made a thing of the past.

How does the concept work?

ABB Geneva Electric Bus TOSA

It takes advantage of the fact that the bus must stop, to let passengers on and off, and that the route is known. The charging stations are placed along the route and the bus’s battery is recharged while passengers are getting on and off the bus. There are two types of chargers along the route:

  • Flash-charging stations at selected stops provide a short high-power boost at 600 kilowatt (kW) for 15 to 20 seconds.
  • Terminal feeding stations deliver prolonged charges of 4-5 minutes at 400 kW to fully top-up the on-board batteries. The terminal chargers are an IGBT-based rectifier, which convert the incoming AC supply to a DC one, which can be used by the bus.

With diesel buses becoming increasingly less attractive, both environmentally and financially, and operators seeking an attractive modern form of transportation without having to hang wires in the street, flash-charging is well situated to replace both existing trolleybus routes and urban diesel routes. Let the future of sustainable transport begin.

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About the author

Bruce Warner

I am an electrical engineer by profession and have the role of global application technology manager for railway and urban transport electrification systems. I have spent the last 13 years in the transportation sector focusing on power supply solutions for railways and on the development of the TOSA e-bus system. In railways, I have been involved at the systems level as well at the product level, particularly medium-voltage (MV) switchgear. In the case of TOSA, I led the R&D team that developed the wayside infrastructure and the energy transfer system. My passion is to develop and apply technologies furthering more sustainable transport solutions.
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