Charging medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles (EVs) is more expensive than charging light-duty EVs due to several factors. First, medium- and heavy-duty EVs have larger battery sizes, which require more energy (measured in kilowatt-hours) to charge fully, resulting in higher electricity consumption and costs.
These vehicles require high-power charging infrastructure that can provide all of this energy during breaks when the vehicle isn’t being used. Additional equipment and infrastructure for high-power charging increase capital and operational costs.
For over-the-road vehicles, there are limited charging stations for medium- and heavy-duty EVs due to the high cost of creating these stations per vehicle served. On top of that, medium- and heavy-duty EVs are typically used for commercial purposes, and charging may need to happen during the day, requiring a rapid charge that is significantly more expensive than at-home charging for light-duty EVs.
Finally, medium- and heavy-duty EVs experience more battery wear and tear due to their increased usage and larger sizes, leading to a higher cost associated with replacing their batteries.
Sounds like a pretty big challenge, right? And that’s before we get into the problems and challenges that happen with electric buses! On top of all of the above, school buses have to work day in and day out, but on some really strange schedules compared to other buses. This means that the charging times for them are fixed, with the bulk of the charging happening at night, but with an opportunity for charging during the day.
When we compare this to a personally owned EV, it’s remarkably similar. When you’re driving in the morning and in the afternoon, with downtime during the day and at night, having a charging station at your home or where you work (or both) makes a lot of sense. But a personal car doesn’t need nearly as much energy as a school bus, and thus doesn’t need an expensive DC fast charging system for daily use. So, school districts can end up having to spend 10 times as much as those of us with a personal EV do!
BorgWarner’s Solution To This School Bus Charging Cost Problem
In a recent press release, BorgWarner announced that it has partnered with the School District of the City of Pontiac to provide proprietary sequential charging using direct current fast chargers (DCFC) for the district’s IC electric school bus fleet. This partnership marks BorgWarner’s first infrastructure development that utilizes funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus Program for electrification. The district’s fleet consists of 25 electric school buses.
“We are pleased to supply our charging technology to the School District of the City of Pontiac and be a part of its green initiative to electrify their school bus fleet,” said Isabelle McKenzie, President and General Manager, BorgWarner Morse Systems. “With a strong focus on electrification, we are proud to support the school bus market by enhancing the infrastructure for electric mobility, further demonstrating our commitment to building a cleaner, energy-efficient world.”
The unique aspect of this project is the implementation of BorgWarner’s proprietary sequential charging technology, which allows up to five dispensers to charge from a single power conversion system (PCS) one at a time in sequence. The partnership with the School District of the City of Pontiac marks the first time BorgWarner is using funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program for electrification. By installing multiple dispensers per power conversion system, the initial investment and installation costs are reduced, while also providing the ability to charge at DCFC levels.
BorgWarner’s direct current fast chargers (DCFCs) are the only UL1741SA-certified solution on the market, giving them vehicle-to-grid (V2G) readiness and the upgradeability for bidirectional applications. This means that the chargers can send energy back to utilities or buildings from the bus batteries during peak demand, creating potential revenue-making opportunities. As BorgWarner’s charging technology is V2G capable, future programs with the School District of the City of Pontiac could involve supporting the power grid by utilizing the energy from the bus batteries during peak demand.
The School District of the City of Pontiac has met the EPA requirements as a prioritized community and has received funding for both electric vehicle supply equipment hardware and installation costs, as well as electric buses themselves. The district received $20,000 per power dispenser, totaling $500,000 in funding, and $9,375,000 for the electric buses. DTE Energy’s eFleet Charger Rebate program is also providing additional funding for the infrastructure.
Why This Matters
Sharing a fast charger with other drivers should be familiar to EV drivers. Almost nobody owns their own DC fast charger, because they’re just too damned expensive. But, being able to rent time at one and take turns with other drivers makes them a somewhat economically feasible arrangement, not unlike a gas station. This makes it possible for everybody to have access to them.
But if you need to have access to one every night and during the day between shifts, it’s an entirely different problem. Being able to share them instead of needing a $50,000 charger for every bus saves some big bucks.
The least technical way to do this would be to charge each bus one at a time and have a lot attendant manually unplug the bus, move it, and plug the next one in. But you’d have to have a night shift of people whose job it is to move buses a few feet. BorgWarner’s solution shares the expensive parts of the charger without having to hire staff to move buses around at night.
One Thing I’d Really Like To See
One thing I’d really like to see is a similar solution pop up at DC fast charging stations for light-duty vehicles. It’s expensive to build stalls at Superchargers and CCS stations, but if you can install more plugs without more chargers, and let the station give you a turn to charge without needing to sit and wait in line, it could make waiting more convenient. This would be especially true if you have something you can do nearby. It could also greatly alleviate the problem of idling cars blocking chargers.
So, this technology should be used more widely!
Featured image provided by Bluebird.
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