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Start-up AEV developing battery-electric shuttle buses for China, India and US markets

3 January 2011

AEV
Prototype of the AEV e-shuttle. Click to enlarge.

Colorado-based American Electric Vehicles (AEV)—a company co-founded by Dr. Dan Rivers, who also co-founded Li-ion battery company Compact Power Inc. with LG Chem in 2000—is developing a 6.3m electric shuttle bus, with its primary markets intended to be China, India and the US.

The 18-passenger pilot eShuttle, which recently concluded efficiency testing in China, currently utilizes an 88.5 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery pack from its China-based partner NVT Battery and features a range of about 133 km (84 miles) without use of air conditioning and with a top speed of 80 km/h (50 mph) and consumption of 665 Wh/km.

AEV2
AEV eShuttle powertrain block diagram. Click to enlarge.

AEV is now making the detailed specification for the production shuttles, the first of which is scheduled to roll off the line on 30 June. The current eShuttle utilizes a first-generation motor and second-generation motor controller designed by AEV; the company is planning to switch to a second-generation motor later this year as it moves closer to delivery of production prototypes to customers. AEV also intends to move to a larger battery pack in the future.

The pack, Rivers notes, can be fairly easily slid out from the bus, and AEV will likely offer such a pack swap configuration as an option.

In an interview with GCC, Rivers noted that he and his experienced team have migrated from one area of the electric vehicle to another, starting out in the drive area with controllers, drivetrain and chargers, moving to the battery, and now ending up with the whole vehicle.

We looked at all the opportunities, and which part of the market is ready for EVs today. We zeroed in on electric shuttles for the fleet market for two main reasons. First, predictable routes. Second, lots of driving, intensive use. Predictability and intensity.

—Dan Rivers

In September 2010, AEV signed a manufacturing agreement with Bonluck Bus Manufacturing in China to assemble its vehicles for markets around the globe. In addition to manufacturing, the agreement also allows AEV to sell buses in China, India, and N. America.

Rivers said that the trends toward less expensive batteries and more expensive oil were combining to make an attractive value proposition. The startup looked to Hong Kong, China and India to see what those markets might need.

In India, we met with Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. They use small shuttles—a little smaller than 5.5m—to bring people into Delhi. On rail, the last mile transportation is to put people on shuttles and to move them around. A lot of these are professional people. The Government of India will do a matching grant with us on the shuttle.

—Dan Rivers

Rivers said that AEV’s goal for 2011 is to produce 50 shuttles, which will initially be targeted for southern China for testing and demonstration driving. However, Rivers notes, although the US is currently a secondary market, “We really want to be in the US. We think there is a great opportunity in the US.

Partners. AEV is partnering with a company in China on the charger, and works with NVT Battery on the Li-ion pack. The motor is being developed with a US design company, and being produced by US-based Orchid International. AEV worked with Parker Hannifin on the instrument panel, which integrated two CANbus systems (the electrical drive system and “everything that is bus”—i.e., door opener, etc.). AEV is upgrading to include 3G cellular network connectivity in China.

Bonluck, AEV’s manufacturing partner, is a medium-sized bus company for China, Rivers said.

We found this medium-size company to have good technology, good quality. They were producing for export only. They are used to doing business overseas, and they had some interesting concepts, such as making a lightweight bus.

—Dan Rivers

AEV did work with LG Chem up to about 2008, Rivers said. However, he explained, LG has targeted the light electric vehicle and hybrid market, with its main production now being a cell that started its development with the Colorado team 10 years ago (and has now ended up in the Chevy Volt, among others).

Every cell is a compromise tailored for an application if you do it right. You want to make the pack as small as possible, but make it as powerful as possible. The [plug-in] hybrid pack design problem is about the hardest you can imagine—much more so than pure electric.

—Dan Rivers

Outlook. AEV intends to produce about 300 buses in 2012, Rivers said. Chris Groesbeck, AEV Global Director of Business Development (who was also with Rivers during CPI’s Colorado phase) noted that with respect to the US, “Our intention is not to become a bus company, our intention is to work with existing players here and fit into existing business models.”

Right now, AEV is looking at private fleets, and sees numbers there that will make it an attractive business.

With respect to the China market, Groesbeck notes that although there is a lot of competition there, AEV can leverage its technology advantage and partner with the right people and companies to get a piece of that market.

It is true that there is a lot of activity in China, but sometimes the reality is less than the hype. There are some 600 electric buses actually in operation today there, while annual sales of buses in China is about 200 to 300 thousand units. We are not latecomers.

—Dan Rivers

January 3, 2011 in Electric (Battery), Fleets | Permalink | Comments (29) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

This is a good looking bus. I favor more smaller buses that would run more often in the U.S. Cities could run more buses with a greater percentage of rider capacity and no one would have to wait long for a ride.

The trouble with more smaller buses is unionized drivers high salaries and fringe benefits (over $80 per hour effectively worked in many countries). Many geographically large cites have taken an opposite direct with 100+ passenger articulated buses to reduce drivers cost. Smaller e-buses would make sense in China, India, Brazil, and similar countries with large population and lower drivers salary, but not is USA, Europe, Australia, Canada etc where drivers salaries are very high.

Small electric buses could make sense if passengers take turn driving it or part time student or with unemployed part time drivers at $10/hour.

The opposite would be driver less buses on rails.

And lets go manufacture them in China. Yet another company trying to help China's poor economy because we have so many extra jobs here??? LOL

@HarveyD:

Can you provide some reference to support your assertions about high driver salaries? At:

http://www.careerbliss.com/salary/bus-driver-at-ac-transit-salaries-342953/

...I find AC Transit bus drivers average something like $61K/year which works out to less than $30/hour. This is in the high cost San Francisco Bay Area. Benefits may add another $10 to $15 to that, but it is far less than the $80 you are quoting.

...in addition, I would bet the shuttle bus drivers who get me from the Oakland airport to the car rental place are making far less than the AC Transit guys.

Bus drivers are not overpaid. The problem is the cost of healthcare.
More people would be inclined to take the bus if it were quieter, as these should be.

I agree bus drivers are not overpaid. The issue, though is the cost for drivers. If, with benefits, it is $50 per hour, that is 50 passengers you need every hour, including non-rush hours, at $1 each just for the driver. So, at what point does it cost too much to look valuable to the passenger -- particularly when they only see their gas bill once a month on the credit card.

If people had to pay cash every day for the gas they use, the depreciation and insurance on their car, and parking, they might be able to compare costs.

Oh yes, and that still does not address that question of frequency. If we could automate the buses and do away with the drivers, then smaller, more frequent buses would make sense in the community.

2010 Toyota Corolla
Base 4-Spd AT
MSRP $16,250

Total Cost to Own
$34,515
5 YEAR AVERAGE FOR CALIFORNIA

http://autos.yahoo.com/2010_toyota_corolla_base_4_spd_at/

All this information is available, most people just choose to ignore it. It is easier just to assume that most people buy and drive cars, so why not them?

NL: In our city, bus drivers have a basic $69K pay. Since there are no broken shifts, the majority only work 4 hours/day during peak hours and get paid for 8 hours. Many will work two 4-hour peak periods and get paid for a two 8-hour shift. The first shift gets them 8 hours pay while the other gets 8x2=16 hours. So for driving two 4-hour periods, in the same day, they get paid for 24 hours. The average driver with 6+ years experience get $76k + another $30K++ for so-called overtime = $110K + xx$K in fringe benefits. The latest evaluation is a minimum of $80/hour for every hour scheduled to work. However, they get well over $120 for every hour really worked. Senior drivers get even more.

At $2.25 per passenger, they collect barely enough to pay the drivers. All other expenses are deficits paid with various taxes. The real total cost per ride is over $4. With smaller buses, that could go as high as $7 to $8 per ride unless you find a way to do away with drivers. People with e-cars will probably go to work down town at lower cost than those larges buses. Subways and suburban e-trains are very different. One driver can move 900 people at much higher speed using clean electricity. That should be the way to go.

Beijing has constructed 3 more subways line (136+ km) in the last 4 years. The current 440 km will be doubled in the next 10 to 15 years. That is the best solution for all large cities.

Smaller buses may be ok as shuttle buses on special steady load routes with lower paid drivers.

@HarveyD:

What city do you live in? I'm actually quite a good driver...

@Nick
...I find AC Transit bus drivers average something like $61K/year which works out to less than $30/hour. This is in the high cost San Francisco Bay Area. Benefits may add another $10 to $15 to that, but it is far less than the $80 you are quoting.

When I first read this I realized you were basing your numbers on an equivalent to a 9-to-5/50weeks a year job. That's just not how it is, as Harvey explains later.

We had such a small bus system here for a bit but ya the cost went freaky and to be blunt the people serviced .. well we didnt give a crap about them anyway.. not enough to pay that fricken much.

The idea of a 6am 8pm shifts, "peaking" diver without an automatic transmission is definitely a frightening thought.
While the drivers of our youth were not dressed or spoken as elouquently as the passengers, in the modern city, traffic pace, allowed lane width and the pressures of life generally makes this idea a truly large commitment.
I think that perceiving the driver as stressed and over pressured is the worst advertisment to passengers.

specialist occupation.?

Harvey, where do you live?
I will admit your bus drivers are overpaid. But that sounds most unusual.

The City's name cannot be given but it is the most mis-managed large city in Canada with almost 30+ overpaid mayors and 500 overpaid elected politicians, 5000+ overpaid policemen/women, overpaid firemen, grossly overpaid bus drivers (in Jeans and union T-shirts most of the time), do nothing blue collar workers etc. It is so bad that almost everybody wants to leave except the very large immigrant population. Street gangs, corrupted Unions and corrupted politicians have taken over.

On top of that, it is so openly corrupted that a criminal organisation has been hired to guard the police stations and protect the police force. Needless to say that the police rarely or never catch a major criminal. All major infrastructure works cost 40+% more because criminals and corrupted unions/politicians control the construction world and get there cuts. Fund collectors for political campaigns is a full time glorified job.

We moved out years ago.

If it was early Rome it could be the right time to b... it down. The Provincial government, mandated to oversee cities, is just as corrupted. What a world we live in. It is worse than early 1900's Chicago.

After investing many $$B, public transport is still about 380 M passengers/year, the same that it was 50+ years ago, but the price went from $0.05 to $2.25 a trip. Subways and suburbans e-trains are still fast and clean, with only one or two driver per 900 passengers but the arrogant bus drivers leave a lot to be desired. More of them would be a disaster. The new 100+ passenger articulated buses may be a partial solution on many routes. Of course, drivers union don't want more of them.

I think HarveyD mentioned living in Vancouver.

Check with last month MacClean Magazine. It had it right.

Wow. That doesn't sound like the honest, efficient, orderly Canadian society that Americans imagine.
Gangs protecting the police dept? whew.

Some how this article on a new small bus turns into a rant about union bus drivers, police departments and gangs. Maybe the whole world suffers ADD and just does not know it yet.

Sorry, this all came about to refute the fact that smaller buses could be operated more economically. Reality is that they cannot due to very high driver cost. Over the life of a typical bus (12 to 18 years, drivers cost up to 10 times more the the initial bus price.

E-trains, e-subways, articulated (2 or 3 modules) e-buses could be better solutions.

I think HarveyD mentioned living in Vancouver.

No, that was me. We had a four-month-long transit strike in Vancouver in 2001 and the news was filled with what they were asking for and how much they already got for the short hours they worked so Harvey's assessment of his city's driver pay rates pay rings true in my ears.

I found this on the operational costs of buses; http://www.gtkp.com/uploads/20091129-201059-7979-Nicolai.pdf
It doesn't cover North American operations but I don't see an American driver settling for much less pay than a European driver and I remember the "50%" number being quoted during our transit strike.

It is all good, we are reminded of issues that are important to us by reading the articles. Maybe there would be more bus drivers needed, but when unemployment is high, I can only see this as a good thing.

SJC, well, better than ranting about AWG.
-
OK, bus drivers cost too much so we need driverless buses, perhaps on an elevated monorail. Cheaper than subways and safer than street trolleys.

The driverless overhead method best used is the prt system using small light weight pod cars. That way the track is very cheap to make because its very light.

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