Wrightspeed Inc. announced a US$30M deal with Infratil-owned NZ Bus, New Zealand’s largest operator of urban bus services. Under the terms of the deal, Wrightspeed will provide its Route 500 heavy-duty range-extended electric powertrain technology to NZ Bus. The move marks Wrightspeed’s first expansion beyond refuse and delivery applications into mass transit, signaling multinational and multimodal demand for the company’s powertrain technology.
The Wrightspeed Route is a Range-extended Electric Vehicle (REV) replacement powertrain that can be customized to fit a variety of heavy-duty platforms, replacing both the engine and the transmission. The Route electric powertrain drives more low-end torque to the wheels than conventional diesel engines, with less fuel, less emissions, and less noise. The on-board turbine generator, the Fulcrum, eliminates range anxiety.
The Wrightspeed Route offers the greatest benefits in frequent-stop heavy-duty applications, such as refuse trucks, delivery vehicles, or buses. The Wrightspeed system can achieve improvements compared to conventional engines of up to:
- 67% reduction in fuel consumption
- 63% reduction in emissions
- $25,000 reduction in annual maintenance.
Actual benefits will vary for each specific duty cycle.
All the Route powertrain configurations—currently the Route 250, the Route 500 and Route 1000—are built on the same modular platform utilizing the compact and lightweight Geared Traction Drive (GTD); the Fulcrum range-extending on-board micro-turbine generator (earlier post); scalable high-power battery packs; a plug-in charger; and its patented Vehicle Dynamics Control System (VDCS), which controls each GTD seperately for optimal vehicle dynamics. (Earlier post.)
Wrightspeed’s Route 500 range-extended powertrain is capable of powering vehicles weighing up to 36,000 pounds (16,329 kg), in grades as steep as 40%. Vehicles with Wrightspeed’s powertrain maintain an efficient drive, with an estimated 11.1 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (21.2 L/100 km).
|Route 500 powertrain components on a bus chassis. Click to enlarge.|
The 80 kW, fuel-agnostic Fulcrum Turbine Generator charges the on-board batteries, which provide power to turn the wheels and give the buses unlimited range with refueling. The company’s patented Geared Traction Drive (GTD) digitally drives each wheel of the vehicle, providing the slip control needed to manage New Zealand streets.
The GTD uses a four-speed clutchless gearbox with software controls in place of heavy and complex traditional transmission components, saving on weight while delivering an wide range of power and speed. The gearbox magnifies the already high torque of the electric motors for brisk starts, even on hills when fully loaded, and also allows efficient cruising speed for highway segments.
With nearly 75% of its electricity sourced from clean energy including, hydro, geothermal and wind power, New Zealand has one of the cleanest energy mixes on the global stage. This deal marks the first tangible step towards New Zealand’s public transportation fleet transitioning to electric powered vehicles, which will make a significant contribution to reducing the country’s carbon footprint.
Zane Fulljames, CEO of NZ Bus, said the company has explored all the options on the market for maintaining a market-leading position in bus infrastructure by accelerating evolution to electric vehicles.
Wrightspeed’s powertrains outperformed the competition on nearly every metric and will provide us with the fuel source flexibility and economically compelling technology to future-proof our transit assets. For example, the technology enables us to reimagine our trolley buses, rather than decommissioning them.—Zane Fulljames
Located in Silicon Valley, Wrightspeed was founded by Ian Wright, co-founder of Tesla Motors.
NZ Bus is the largest operator of urban bus services in New Zealand. It has a fleet of more than 1,000 buses and carries mor than 50 million passengers each year.