The Washington Post

The future of electric buses

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The July 11 Metro article “Electric buses ready for solar,” about the microgrid systems coming in September to power a growing fleet of electric buses on Montgomery County’s Ride On system, left the impression that Montgomery County will soon be operating a viable electric bus system. The buses, hopefully having sufficient range for full daily service, will be charged at night by solar panels. Hurray for clean propulsion.

That the limited range of battery technology could well restrict the range of Ride On buses, substantia­lly increasing the cost of providing service, is a subject for future discussion, after the debate on the wisdom of electric buses with existing technology.

In the 1970s, Long Beach, Calif., bought buses with replaceabl­e, industrial lead-acid batteries. At scheduled times, buses drove into a yard and, within minutes, the battery pack was replaced. The manufactur­er discontinu­ed the replaceabl­e battery electric bus, requiring Long Beach to abandon its operation.

Though the attempt at automotive battery replacemen­t has not proved commercial­ly viable, the concept of easily replaceabl­e batteries for transit or local truck operation seems to have been quietly forgotten. Would the proposed microgrid systems better serve a fleet of buses with replaceabl­e batteries?

Martin Wallen, Bethesda The writer is a transporta­tion consultant.

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