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Toshiba's pioneering battery puts electric buses on the road

by ClickGreen staff. Published Fri 06 Feb 2015 10:00, last updated: 06/02/15
Toshiba expects high demand for electric buses on a global scale
Toshiba expects high demand for electric buses on a global scale

Toshiba is building on the results of a groundbreaking trial that could pave the way for the future of transportation.

A successful demonstration experiment on the streets of Tokyo last year focused on an electric bus charged by a cutting-edge Toshiba SCiB battery. This pioneering innovation allows for super-quick charging, making it a feasible, efficient and environmentally friendly option for public transport.

Now Toshiba’s vision is to make that part of a day-to-day reality. With urban areas around the globe working to encourage residents to use public transport as a critical component in the battle again carbon emissions and traffic congestion, the Japanese multinational is anticipating huge demand for high-performing electric buses.

As part of its ‘Smart Community’ corporate philosophy, Toshiba aims to achieve integrated solutions that deliver safety, security and comfort to society as well as helping the environment. Electric buses are a much looked at and desired answer to keeping traffic flowing in towns and cities while taking significant steps towards attaining emissions targets and cutting the impact of pollution on public health. However, there has until very recently been a gulf between that theory and what has been achieved in practical terms.

Toshiba believes it has bridged that gap with its Battery Energy Storage Solutions with SCiB. The company set out to create something that would give all the environmental and health benefits of electric vehicles whilst matching or exceeding the performance and reliability of the existing community buses. To that end, the battery needed first and foremost to recharge in the same amount of times that it takes to refuel a diesel bus – approximately five minutes. It had to be fully recharged within this time frame to ensure it would have plenty of power during the traffic jams that are an inevitable occurrence in busy cities, including – perhaps more than most – the streets of Tokyo where the system was tested.

In addition to a speedy recharge, the battery was required to have a long operating life, minimising the need for costly and time-consuming battery changes.

Within two years, the experimental research team at Toshiba, working in collaboration with Oriental Consultants Co Ltd, a group that provides global consulting for sustainable projects, had come up with the SCiB rechargeable battery - meeting all these crucial criteria as well as being high-functioning and integrating full safety features.

In 2014, the system was tested for six weeks in the Minato City of Tokyo, covering a 10 mile bus route that ran between Tamachi and Shinbashi stations and also included the distance to the parking garage. The demonstration experiment on this route was part of a Low Carbon Technology Research and Development Program conducted by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment with the aim of identifying and advancing the development of clean innovation with the potential to be implemented quickly.

In conjunction with this government program, Toshiba and Minato City formed the ‘Agreement for Comprehensive Cooperation to Build a Low Carbon Society’ last year. The electric bus that uses Toshiba’s SCiB battery was implemented as a result of discussions on how to reduce carbon emissions and manage energy for regional transportation.

The technology is now ready to hit the road in towns and cities around the globe.

The SCiB boasts high capacity and performance in colder climates and temperatures as low as -30c, making it easier to implement in a wide range of different environments.

The ambition for a long battery life has been achieved at an unprecedented level so that even after recharging 10,000 times, the SCiB maintains 80% of its capacity. As part of the experimental research, the team developed a system to reuse these batteries as they gradually lose output over time, meaning they can be put to good use as stationary storage batteries rather than disposed of.

The proven ability to recharge the electric buses within around five minutes – putting them on a par with diesel – allows them to recharge and run a route continually for more than 62 miles a day (depending on the battery’s power consumption level).

The frequent stopping and starting that is inevitable in built-up urban environments – and especially on bust bus routes – has also been factored into the innovative design of the SCiB. Unlike previous rechargeable batteries, which have experienced issues with this, the SCiB uses technology that makes instant high input and output and high currents possible, achieving smooth driving equivalent to that of a gasoline vehicle.

A Toshiba statement concluded: “In places with chronic traffic congestion or within airport terminals, the Electric bus can solve problems while reducing carbon emissions and making the air safer for people and the environment.

“The use of renewable energy not only helps to sustain our environment, but helps to reduce costs in the long run. The profits gained by reducing costs can lead to even more implementation of environmentally-friendly solutions that make everyday life more comfortable for consumers.”



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