Will all electric buses eventually charge wirelessly in this way?

  • The Seattle region will purchase 33 zero-emission Enviro500EV buses, manufactured by Alexander Dennis, with an inductive charging system produced by InductEV.
  • In addition to charging at their depots, the buses can also charge during stops and parking via charging pads installed in the road.
  • InductEV currently has 35 in-ground charging stations across the state, with a larger number of buses on the way that can use them.

Wireless charging for smartphones is one of the most useful innovations we’ve seen in cars in the last decade, especially since automakers have rarely been able to find good places to put USB ports.

But scaling up a little further, inductive charging also at one point seemed like a promising way to charge passenger EVs, even as consumers have recently been demanding DC fast charging, requiring increasingly resilient (and expensive) charging infrastructure.

Scaled up a bit furtherand wireless inductive charging also promises to be a viable alternative to trolleybuses or even battery-electric buses that charge via common connectors or pantographs, using a path built into the road surface.

Puget Sound is expected to be the first region in the U.S. to receive electric buses that rely on wireless charging technology, which is reportedly an industry first for double-decker buses in North America.

Seattle-area Sound Transit has made plans to purchase 33 zero-emission Enviro500EV buses made by Alexander Dennis, which will feature Voith Electrical Drive Systems paired with inductive charging technology from Pennsylvania-based InductEV.

The buses themselves will also be able to charge the old-fashioned way at their base, but the 300 kW inductive charging pads will give their batteries a serious boost during their routes.

Instead of one wired charging session, buses have access to several smaller wireless charging sessions.

“The order was placed after conducting extensive route mapping exercises in collaboration with Sound Transit, using car-level modeling to fully understand operational requirements,” said Stephen Walsh, vice president of Alexander Dennis in North America.

The buses themselves will serve a new route called Stride bus rapid transit (BRT), which will connect communities along Interstate 405 north, east and south of Lake Washington.

a bus parked in a parking lot

InductEV

Buses equipped with inductive technology can charge during their route while parked in a number of parking spaces.

InductEV’s wireless charging technology debuted in Washington state in Wenatchee back in 2017.

“Wireless charging during the day also improves the use of renewable energy for electricity, compared to wired charging at night in depot,” says InductEV. “Sound Transit will charge its buses en route and at depots, as nearly half of the Puget Sound region’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources.”

The hope is that if there are enough of these charging pads, buses won’t have to rely on depot-based infrastructure at all at night or between services. So instead of one wired charging session, buses can rely on a series of smaller wireless charging sessions. At least, if there are enough of them.

InductEV currently has 35 in-ground charging stations in Washington state, and compatible hardware has already been installed or is expected to be added to 100 electric buses.

“InductEV’s technology avoids wired, depot-oriented charging methods that consume significant amounts of real estate and electricity utilities, while enabling smooth, high-performance wireless charging interoperability for both double-deckers and 18-meter articulated electric buses on high-quality BRT commuter routes,” the company says.

However, for this type of charging to catch on in the US, electric buses are needed himself have to catch up first. This seems to be a bigger hurdle at the moment, with relatively little progress seen nationally, apart from a few EV-friendly regions.

We should keep in mind that Washington State will end sales of internal combustion cars and light trucks much sooner than others, in 2030, so it is already ahead of the curve.

Will electric buses even reach a 50% market share nationwide by 2040, or will this process take longer? Let us know what you think.

Portrait photo of Jay Ramey

Jay Ramey grew up with very strange European cars, and instead of looking for something reliable and comfortable for his own personal use, he has gravitated towards the more adventurous end of the reliability spectrum. Despite being followed by French cars for the past decade, he has somehow managed to avoid owning Citroen as he found them too mundane, and is currently looking at cars from the former Czechoslovakia. Jay has worked at Autoweek since 2013.

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