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21/02/2014 - 17:15hs

São Paulo seeks sustainability with battery-powered bus

The first of its kind in the world, the project was developed in tandem by Japanese and Brazilian companies. The goal is to cut emissions of pollutants into the environment.

São Paulo – The state of São Paulo is testing the world’s first completely battery-powered bus. The new vehicle has been designed to cut emissions of pollutants into the environment. Tests with passengers started being conducted last Thursday (20th), and were attended by state governor Geraldo Alckmin.

The project’s costs were shared by Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Mitsubishi Corporation (MC), and by the Brazilian concessionaire Metra (Metropolitan Transport System). The technology was developed by MHI and by Brazil’s Eletra Industrial.

“The unit was assembled by Eletra Industrial. The bus is almost entirely Brazilian-made: the chassis, the body, the engine. Only the battery and the charger are made in Japan,” says Ivan Regina, the Planning and Projects manager for the Metropolitan Urban Transportation Company (EMTU), an organization of the state government in charge of inspecting and regulating transport in the metropolitan area of São Paulo.

According to the EMTU, the batteries are composed of rechargeable lithium ions, similar to the ones used in portable electronic devices, which are able to store much higher amounts of energy than the more widespread traction batteries. The battery-powered buses do not require the use of cables, like those which connect the traditional trolleybuses to the city’s power grid.

For a period of six months, the vehicle, which is 18 metres long and has a passenger capacity of 124, will undergo a testing phase in the 11 kilometre stretch between the Metropolitan Terminal of Diadema and Morumbi Station, of the São Paulo Metropolitan Train Company (CPTM).

According to the EMTU, the operation has been planned out to enable four quick recharges throughout the day, each lasting four minutes, at Terminal Diadema, and the bus will cover 160 kilometres per day, including trips between the garage and the terminal. The bus will also receive slow charge, lasting two to three hours each, at the Metra concessionaire’s garage, during the evening and at passenger downtimes.

During this testing phase, the EMTU will assess the project’s financial viability in order to determine whether it is worth implementing in São Paulo. “The goal is to find out how much it costs. We will have both the battery-powered bus and the (diesel-fuelled) ‘shadow bus’ covering the same route, so we can compare the prices of diesel and the battery,” explains Ivan.

“Theoretically speaking, electric costs less than diesel, but we will have a certifier company check the energy spending,” says the executive. The enterprise in charge of monitoring the costs is the São Paulo-based automotive engineering company Netz.

Ivan notes, however, that the main purpose of the project is of an environmental nature. According to him, a diesel-fuelled bus spends 3,500 litres of fuel per month, and emits 9 tonnes of carbon dioxide. “The battery-powered bus is more silent than others and provides just as much comfort. There is no difference to the users, only to the environment,” he says.

According to him, no government funds are involved in the project, and it is still too early to tell how much the concessionaires will save up in fleet operation and maintenance should the new bus be approved for regular usage.

“The [battery-powered] bus has all the flexibility of diesel and does not emit greenhouse gases. It is a dream bus. If the economic requirements are met, society will be very pleased,” says Ivan. According to the EMTU manager, there are no forecasts of fare increases should the new bus be adopted.

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

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