Chicago Switches to Electric Buses for More Green Transportation
The Number 66 bus drove like a regular diesel bus on the west side of Chicago. No one seemed to notice the hum of the electric motors powering the bus.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) really wants to operate the reliable buses that don’t cause air pollution, even though cold weather can reduce the range of battery power.
The CTA has to do a lot and incur a lot of money to operate the electric bus. An electric bus costs about $ 1.1 million, about $ 500 thousand more than a diesel bus. But after spending money on buses and charging stations, the cost of operating a trolleybus is much less than that of a diesel bus.
According to CTA, the operating cost of the 12-meter trolleybus is $2.01 per mile (about Rp.18,800 per kilometer). For a diesel bus, the cost is approximately $3.08, and for a diesel-electric hybrid bus it is approximately $2.63.
CTA should also build fast charging points at both ends of the line to keep buses running. Bus Number 66 was among the first of many bus lines to be converted to electric engines. CTA aims to have all of its buses electric by 2040.
Don Hargrove, CTA’s senior maintenance manager at the garage that houses most of the authority’s 23 electric buses said, “I think the benefit to CTA is in providing a cleaner service to our clients, as we continue to move towards zero emissions.”
The battery is continuously monitored to ensure that the battery does not run out quickly which could render the bus inoperable. Once the power drops below 50 percent, the battery must be fully charged. So far, all is going well.
Chicago Transit Authority assistant chief bus equipment engineer Richard Lin talks about a feature of electric buses while they are charging in a West Side garage, Chicago, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. (AP/Erin Hooley)
CTA’s experimentation with electric buses began in 2014 and has now made the transition. Other transportation systems will go through the same process to help reduce pollution and fight climate change. The US lags behind several other countries when it comes to electric bus operations. China is leading on that right now.
In Chicago, the weather slowed the use of electric buses. The lithium-ion batteries that power the bus lose efficiency as temperatures drop, reducing their range.
Most of the energy drained from the battery is used to keep the inside of the bus warm to 21 degrees Celsius.
Chicago Transit Authority electric bus charges up in a West Side garage, Chicago, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)
Hargrove explains, “While we address the daily challenges of severe weather in Chicago, I believe it is ongoing. There are a number of things we are in preparation for as we go forward, from an evaluation of the cold weather and how the buses work.”
The electric buses have a small diesel engine that heats the cabin in extreme temperatures to extend battery life. But often the buses use electric heaters which can suck battery power.
Every 16 kilometers, the distance one way on the No. 66 bus route, electric buses use about eight percent of their energy. In winter, a full battery charge can allow the bus to cover a distance of 160 kilometers. After about six runs of the one-way route, the battery must be charged if the charge drops below 50 percent. [uh/ab]