Electric bus rolls over and crashes – rooftop battery pack design
potentially to blame
Apr. 6th 2018 Fred Lambert
Earlier this week, a New Flyer electric bus rolled over and crashed during
testing in Anniston, Alabama.
It’s a surprising accident and the rooftop battery pack design is
potentially to blame.
New Flyer is the biggest transit bus maker in North America, but it mainly
manufactures CNG and diesel-powered buses.
It recently started making all-electric buses and last year, it launched its
next-generation Xcelsior all-electric bus.
On Tuesday, the company was testing their electric buses in Anniston, where
they are based, and the bus was going around a curve when it rolled over and
crash – injuring the driver and three other employees inside the bus.
Anniston police Sgt. Michael Webb commented to the Anniston Star:
“They were going around one of the curves on Werner Drive when the bus
went off the road slightly to the right. The driver lost control and it
tipped over onto its side and slid to a stop.”
The employees were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
“We’re not real sure what caused them to go off the road. New Flyer is
investigating the components of the bus. Since we didn’t have any major
injuries or other property damage, we’re leaving it up to them to
investigate if there was a mechanical error.”
New Flyer didn’t comment on the news report.
It’s notoriously extremely difficult to make a vehicle an all-electric
vehicle roll over because the battery packs are generally quite heavy and
result in a low center of gravity.
But in this case, it might have actually contributed to the accident because
of New Flyer’s electric bus design which actually puts the battery packs, or
at least some, in the rooftop.
The reason for this design is unclear since most EV manufacturers put the
batteries in the floor. It’s the case for electric car manufacturers, like
Tesla, but also electric bus manufacturers, like Proterra.
It’s especially important when you have large quantities of batteries since
it drastically changes the center of gravity of the vehicle and in the case
of New Flyer’s buses, they can have an energy capacity of up to an
impressive 818 kWh.
A potential explanation is the fact that New Flyer employs a charging system
on the roof and it might want to shorten the distance between the charging
system and the battery packs.
It might also be due to New Flyer mainly manufacturer CNG and diesel buses
and using the same architecture for electric buses, which puts some
limitation on the design.
Either way, it’s quite surprising that it would fall over.
Bus manufacturers like New Flyer have been increasingly looking at ways to
electrify their products as newcomers in the space, like Proterra and BYD,
are rapidly winning over large contracts to electrify transit fleets.
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