Buses – especially a brand-new technology like an electric bus – are not like consumer cars where you can buy it off the lot and drive away.
For any bus to work along any route, it needs to be tested, retested, and calibrated. Onboard buses, there’s a complex computer system that controls functions like doors, hydraulic systems, and a host of other items you won’t find in a car. And, these electric buses are no different.
“Every variable we test can have an impact on the entire system,” Matthew Dake, director of bus maintenance said. “That’s why we’re making sure to put this first-of-its kind system through its paces.”
Metro Transit engineers are testing all the systems that could impact range and operator usage to ensure that it’s ready for the opening day of the METRO C Line.
After configuration tests at New Flyer in St. Cloud, the first electric bus is in Minneapolis testing its weight tolerance and range. The bus is loaded with 12,000 pounds of sandbags to simulate passengers. This is more weight than a fully seated bus.
“We’re running with heavier loads to stress test the weight, but also see how that impacts range,” Michael Joyce, assistant director of bus maintenance said. “If we know extremes, we know it will operate better in normal conditions.”
12,000 pounds of sand simulate more than a full load of passengers. This stress test helps transit know the extreme limits of this vehicle.
Engineer David Haas is working to calibrate the electric bus to feel more like driving a diesel. It helps the operators transition to this new bus, but also helps operations understand and control the variables that can impact overall operations.
“Without any changes, the electric bus would feel different to an operator,” Haas said. “By attempting to match items like rate of acceleration, we aim to make the transition to electric easier for our operators.”
Another important test depletes the battery down to lower levels than will be normally expected in daily operations. This helps the team understand how to plan for low power situations and further understand range capabilities.
“Just like a diesel bus, everything from its hardware to the operator to the ambient conditions can impact how the bus performs.” Haas said. “It’s our job to understand the bus inside and out in so we can provide and support the best experience possible.”
During these tests, riders might catch a glimpse of an electric bus along the METRO C Line corridor. Starting on June 8, 2019, we’ll ask our riders to put our electric buses to the test.