In Motion Charging

Kiepe Electric, a subsidiary of Knorr-Bremse, Düsseldorf, Germany, is a supplier of electrical systems to rail vehicle and bus manufacturers.

The company has announced the delivery of its In Motion Charging (IMC) technology to equip 185 New Flyer XT40 buses for the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA) that is expanding its fleet of zero emission transit buses. The order follows a similar one for 93 articulated Xcelsior XT60 electric buses by US-based New Flyer.

The IMC technology of Kiepe Electric allows trolley buses to cover sections of the route without overhead lines in battery-powered mode; batteries are being recharged when the vehicle is back under overhead lines.

“We desperately need the new XT40 electric trolley buses to improve the ride for passengers and the impacts on our environment. These new buses will serve passengers on the city’s hilliest and busiest routes. We can’t have them on our roads soon enough,” said SFMTA Board President, London Breed. 

SFMTA’s trolley routes carry 200 000 riders a day through some of the city’s most dense neighborhoods and the IMC buses are sometimes operated on gradients of over 22%.

Recently, San Francisco placed their first option of 33 additional articulated Xcelsior XT60 IMC buses that are currently in production. To date, 452 Kiepe Electric IMC bus systems have been ordered by San Francisco and Seattle in the USA. Worldwide the battery-trolley combination has been ordered for 844 IMC buses already and 580 of those have been delivered.

 “With IMC, electric buses can cover up to 25 km in battery mode,” said Rainer Besold, managing director of Kiepe Electric GmbH. “The batteries are recharged on the 20% or so of the route that runs under overhead lines – the sections we call charging roads – and for the rest of the time an IMC bus operates just like a battery-powered bus.” 

The cities of Esslingen, Solingen and Arnheim in Germany have also reported on their experience with operation of IMC buses at a recent DNHK Smart Mobility campaign launched by the German-Dutch Chamber of Commerce.

In Esslingen, electric buses with IMC have been in successful operation since 2015. According to Head of Operations Harald Boog: “The IMC buses are as reliable as diesel-engine buses. Each bus covers around 65 000 km a year, with 43 000 km of that distance in battery mode.”

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IMC technology means that bus routes can be extended without constructing new overhead lines, or that part of the existing diesel- and gas-powered fleet can be immediately replaced with IMC battery buses. “One of our diesel-powered bus routes in Solingen is going to be taken over by IMC buses mid-2018,” said Holger Ben Zid from Solingen Utility Company. “Just 20% of this route runs under overhead lines.”

“We’re going to be using our existing infrastructure as a charging road and as the backbone of a smart DC network,” reported Alexander Uli from the local authority in Arnheim. “This year we’ve already seen the launch of smart charging stations for electric cars in Arnheim, supplied with power from the overhead lines.”

In the future, the overhead lines in Solingen and Arnheim will be able to provide power for a wide variety of electric vehicles. Regenerative energy resources such as solar power and wind energy will be fed into the overhead lines. Stationary batteries connected to the overhead lines will provide interim storage capacity.

Another option is a link to existing light rail infrastructure. “Cities with tram lines can use their existing substations to set up IMC charging roads,” said Kiepe Electric Project Manager, Marcel Manheller.