Public Transportation is a great way to reduce pollution and traffic by reducing the number of cars on the road. Hybrid buses reduce emissions even further. While it is possible to find electric powered public transportation, most systems require cables, or tracks of some kind which require infrastructure, maintenance, and higher up-front costs. Engineers in Geneva, Switzerland think they have solved those issues with a new pilot program called Trolleybus Optimisation Système Alimentation, or TOSA.
CNET describes this system in detail:
…the TOSA (Trolleybus Optimisation Système Alimentation) pilot project is testing electric buses with an unusual method for keeping charged up. The articulated bus has a battery pack on top of the vehicle. When it pulls into certain stations, it connects through a robotic arm to what is essentially an electric bus dock. A 15-second rapid flash charge helps to keep the buses running all day.
Each bus can hold 133 passengers. The fast charge is enough to get the bus to the next charging station, usually located at every few stops. The goal of the TOSA project is to determine the most efficient and cost-effective way to implement electric buses in mass transportation systems. It was built by ABB, a Zurich-based corporation known for developing robotics and power and automation technologies, in partnership with the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, a Swiss technology institute.
Charging stations still require infrastructure and maintenance, but in a much smaller footprint than cables or underground wire. The real challenge it seems has been in finding the optimal distance between stations, and scheduling the buses to run in a way that won’t cause backup at any of the charging stations. While this is just a pilot program now, the goal is to roll out an expanded TOSA line of buses by 2017. Take a look at the video below to see one of the TOSA buses in action, as well as a description of some of the challenges that the engineers are facing.