A Spark for Electric Transportation

Courtesy Flickr/Marina del Castell

If you happen to be in Boston, and you happen to be trying to get from Logan Airport to somewhere, say Cambridge, then you know the best route is undoubtedly the Silver Line.  Free of charge from the airport, the Silver Line is the train-like name given to the fleet of buses that motor through the narrow roads and ramps of the Commonwealth.

But when these buses make their way down the tunnels and across the river to the airport, they make an extra stop.  It’s right before the last tunnel that takes riders from the World Trade Center to the terminal.  The entire bus shudders to a stop, pauses, and starts up again, perhaps slightly quieter.  Then the speaker lets out a welcome message informing riders the bus is now switching from diesel fuel to electric power.

And while we can clap ourselves on the back for the switch to electric, they’re making some moves in Europe toward the next big thing.

In case you missed it, eight wirelessly charged, electric buses are set to start running in the UK.  Not only do they run on electricity, they charge through the road.  As BBC News reports,

… the bus parks over plates buried in the road. The driver then lowers receiver plates on the bottom of the bus to within 4cm of the road surface and the bus is charged for around 10 minutes before resuming service.

According to market research group Frost & Sullivan, by 2020, 9.8% of transit buses will be hybrid and 5.4% will be electric.  But the U.S. won’t be leading the way – Chinese manufacturers are expected to dominate the global hybrid/electric bus market.

Perhaps that’s not surprising, given South Korea has already installed similar “in-road batteries” for one of their routes.  It also remains no surprise that the (in)famous electric car company Tesla beat business predictions for last quarter, pulling in $46 million.

Unfortunately, this is all terrible news for those of us who love the sentimentality and romance of a good old-fashioned streetcar.

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