|Rendering of the Freight*BUS with side elevation drawing showing one possible configuration. Click to enlarge.|
Earlier in the year, Transport for London (TfL) staged an open design contest for new buses for London. The contest generated more than 700 entries from five continents.
Two whole bus designs—from Aston Martin and Foster + Partners; and Capoco Design Ltd—shared first place. The first design proposed a “zero-emissions ready” powertrain, the second a series hybrid powertrain. Both of these designs, as well as the runners-up and merit award designs, took a conventional, passengers-only view of the bus. One of the submissions to the contest, however, took a different approach, proposing flexibly combining passenger and freight transport in the same vehicle: the Freight*BUS.
The Freight*BUS, designed by a team led by Hugh Frost, is one element in the larger proposed On-Route transportation system, derived from the London Construction Consolidation Centre concept. On-Route envisions a network of consolidation centers and cross-docks for freight movement, and hubs for passenger and freight delivery and collection.
We quickly realised that there are opportunities to improve bus routing & linking with other transport services and modes using consolidation principals, but there is an even bigger opportunity to use the London Bus for freight as well as passenger movement that would reduce the numbers of goods vehicles on city roads (especially Light goods vans) dramatically, perhaps by 50%. The idea is that between peak hours when bus-passenger utilisation is low, the bus can also be used for freight. Further, we propose to use buses to carry freight in the evening and overnight, maximising utilisation of these vehicles getting maximum Return on Investment (ROI) and substantially increased revenue from the vehicles.—The New London Bus
For the powertrain, the Freight*BUS also envisions using an all-electric (battery or fuel cell) or series hybrid system, combined with distributed wheel motors. The ability to turn in its own length and ‘crab steer’ provides optimal handling for tight fit bus stops and maneuvering in bus stations or consolidation centers. To support its vision of flexible passenger/freight transport, it features new inventions such as ceiling-suspended seating enabling rapid reconfiguration and a patent-protected pallet-less lifting and handling device.
In their contest submission document, the Future*BUS designers heavily reference the e-Traction bus powertrain design used in the Whisper buses—a series hybrid bus with wheel motors using a Li-ion pack from Valence Technology. The Future*BUS designers propose using Li-ion batteries from Altairnano for their fast-charge capability and greater energy density.
The new Altairnano batteries offer 3x the power density and delivery of standard Li-ion batteries used in the Whisper bus. This means that we would need only 120 kg of Altairnano batteries to provide the power for 1 hour of emission free motoring-fully laden (no generator running) and only 480 kg to run for 4 hours (1/2 a shift). That’s around 380 litres of battery volume, or about 10% of the available space in the main deck under-floor area.
More significantly, that’s much less weight than the generator set and fuel tank. So it makes sense to get rid of the generator set, and have a full 4 hour or even 8 hour battery range, and be permanently emission free at the point of use. Remember these batteries can be 80% recharged in 1 minute. 100% recharged in a few more.
Given our preferred option of the P.M.L. Motor technology (subject to development) the performance is likely to be a further 40% more efficient.—The New London Bus
Although not a winner of the TfL contest, the On-Route team is looking for OEM partners to further the concept.