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Inductive Charging: It's Charged (A Few) Italian Buses For 10 Years Now

 
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Inductive Power Transfer wireless charging used in Turin buses. [Image: Conductix-Wampfler]

Inductive Power Transfer wireless charging used in Turin buses. [Image: Conductix-Wampfler]

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Inductive charging is one of those "wait a few years" technologies, right?

Not if you live in Italy, where inductive charging isn't just being used now, but has been for a decade in bus fleets in Turin and Genoa.

The buses are charged each night at the depot, but to ensure they remain topped up during the day, induction coils are set into the road at stops, terminals and hubs. Another coil is set into the bus chassis, allowing it to charge at the frequent stopping points. A top-up can replenish 10-15 percent of the battery's capacity.

That, says The New York Times, is enough to keep a bus going for its whole 125-mile route around Turin each day.

What may surprise is just how long the system has been in place. Conductix-Wampfler, the German wireless charging engineering company that supplies the Inductive Power Transfer (ITP) system, says the system has been fully operational for ten years now.

That's testament not only to the technology's viability, but also to how useful and reliable the system can be in the right application. Thirty buses in the two cities use the system, which runs at 95 percent efficiency--i.e, only 5 percent of power is lost during transfer.

Conductix-Wampfler is also keen to reassure people that there's no health risk associated with the magnetic induction fields, and that the system meets guidelines set out by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection watchdog.

Inductive Power Transfer wireless charging used in Turin buses. [Image: Conductix-Wampfler]

Inductive Power Transfer wireless charging used in Turin buses. [Image: Conductix-Wampfler]

Enlarge Photo
The electric buses naturally cost more than their diesel counterparts, but with the cost of electric power costing only $9,000 a year compared to $50,000 per year for diesel, Conductix-Wampfler estimates a payback period of less than four years.

The bus routes are proof that the system can work when applied correctly, and it's given two Italian cities quiet, clean and fossil fuel-free public transport for the past decade.

Better still, the company is planning pilot and test projects of IPT in American cities, including Los Angeles, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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Comments (10)
  1. What an excellent system. I wonder why it isn't seeing more wide spread usage. I wonder if it requires a significant percentage of idle time at the charging points.
     
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  2. It could be a setup cost thing John - if you plan an infrastructure with this included then you can account for digging holes in the roads to accommodate it, but perhaps it's too much effort for cities with an alternative system already in place. A pity though - as you say, it's a great system.
     
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  3. Great concept that eliminates toxic diesel fumes and noise where it counts: in the cities. If this technology really works as advertised there should be a ban on diesel buses in cities; there is really no excuse for it anymore.
     
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  4. And if the chargers could charge my cell phone at the same time.....Bonus!
     
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  5. I would like to see it compared to the KAIST system out of S KOREA and now licensed by MIT. It appears that both systems need something that is sorely lacking in the USA energy independence based on public infrastructure and planning. Solutions in search of sound policy. Total cost of operation for such systems would be lower then diesel based systems. MIT did a study based on the Staples EV fleet which documented this. (different conductive fleet) Many solutions in search of smart adopters.
     
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  6. This system has evolved and is now at the same cost level as diesel buses in a 10 year lifespan. The conductix system is less expensive than the competition. See also the website www.proov.nl. Proov is a systems integrator that knows how to succesfully implement this system
     
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  7. Sounds brilliant for public busses, given that they have set routes chargers can be placed at set stoping points. And I'm shocked that the system has been in place for 10 years, but it does prove that it can work because it has worked.
     
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  8. I think 10 years is plenty time to prove this system works, and it seems to work just fine, but it seems too complex for American understanding and America does not want to dig big pot holes in their roads to install the system...heaven forbid, we have enough pot holes already. The most polluted city in America, Lexington, Ky. could benefit from this system and actually clean their air up so they can see where they are driving and cut down on fatal accidents, all at the same time...killing five birds with one stone.
     
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  9. The one challenge for this system: Bus routes change. Perhaps not on major arteries in very large cities, but even a detour of several blocks (for a pedestrian mall or whatever) will impose a huge capital cost, more akin to that of streetcars than of buses. A point to consider?
     
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  10. I wonder how viable this would be in Toronto? There's already an extensive dowtown streetcar system with overhead charging lines but diesel buses also run on some of the same routes or on adjacent streets.
     
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