• 03.08.13

These Electric Buses Charge Themselves While They Drive

A new set of German buses doesn’t just run on electricity. They also don’t have to pause for hours to get a new charge.

Recharging your electric vehicle at home, or at a charging station, is great. But, really, you don’t want to. You want to keep driving. The dream of inductive charging is just that: charging while you’re on the move.


Last year, we wrote about research (also here) into inductive, or wireless, charging. Both projects look at transferring power on highways, using metal plates under the road and in the EV.

But, probably, we’ll see the technology in public transit first. We wrote about an “auto-tram” in Germany a while back. And now a bus operator in Germany is trialing two electric buses in Mannheim, using the same idea. Running the 63 route, the Rhein-Neckar-Verkehr (RNV) vehicles will be charged “as soon as the vehicle completely covers the charging segment” at the stop.

It “enables electric buses to serve routes originally designed for conventional buses operating to tight timetables,” says Jérémie Desjardins, at Bombardier Transportation, which developed the power-train. “It fully integrates the charging process into normal bus operations, so you don’t need more vehicles than with current diesel bus fleets.”

The trial is for 12 months, during which RNV hopes to “determine a framework for infrastructure, batteries, inductive energy transfer and daily operation by testing the new technology on a real-life route.” The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology will build a “simulation that demonstrates the entire power flow in the electric buses and at the inductive charging stations.” RNV is also testing an electric van equipped with the same wireless equipment.

It will be interesting to see the economics of the service, and whether inductive charging has a future in public transport. Germany’s Ministry of Transport is putting in 3.3 million euro to fund the project.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.