Decades after trolleys were driven off the road by cars, electric buses are making a comeback. But keeping a huge vehicle like a bus charged up can be a challenge, especially with today’s limited battery capacity. Scientists at Switzerland’s Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, though, have an idea they think could change that—they've developed a new technology that gives buses a quick power-up every time they stop to drop off or pick up passengers.
Instead of charging itself with unsightly wires that dangle across the street, these buses charge up in specially designed overhangs at a bus stop. Each charge takes only 15 seconds. It doesn't fill the battery up, but it does provide enough juice to get the bus to its next stop.
All a city would need to do is install the charging stations—no overhead wires or trolley tracks required. Other bus projects require a lot more infrastructure changes. This one charges buses from plates installed on the ground. This one, for instance, would charge buses wirelessly from cables laid under the road. Which would require digging up huge portions of roadways. Which would not make commuters happy. And is expensive.
Driven by increasing demand, though, more and more cities are building street-level public transit infrastructure, by expanding their streetcar systems and light rail lines. In Atlanta, overhead wires for a new streetcar system went live a few weeks ago, and this summer Washington, D.C., is set to start using streetcars on their streets again.