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Bombardier to test electric technology on buses in Montreal, Germany

Primotive technology charges buses by underground induction stations at bus stops.


MONTREAL—Bombardier’s electric transit technology will be tested next winter on buses in Montreal, followed in early 2014 on an urban route used by passengers in the German city of Mannheim.

The transportation giant’s Primove technology is designed to allow buses to be charged by underground induction stations when they stop to let passengers hop on and off.

Small amounts of energy emitted from an electromagnetic field are used to quickly charge batteries on the bus and propel it to the next power source. It removes the need for lengthy overnight plug-ins, allowing the buses to remain longer on the road and be outfitted with lighter and smaller batteries.

Bombardier will test the technology in Canada’s harsh winter conditions at a special track on Ile-Ste-Helene, the home of Expo 67, in partnership with Hydro-Quebec and an undisclosed bus manufacturer.

While Germany will test the system using buses filled with passengers, there are no immediate plans to do so in Canada.

Bombardier says it is close to reaching an agreement with a bus manufacturer for projects in North America after Nova Bus, the Quebec-based subsidiary of Volvo Buses, decided not to pursue the required research and development.

While Germany’s testing is further advanced, having a bus partner in North America should pave the way for finding a transit operator to push the project towards commercialization.

Odile Paradis, a spokeswoman for Montreal’s transit authority, said it is in discussions with Bombardier about the upcoming testing and is “very interested” in the electrification project.

German bus riders will get the first hands-on opportunity to see the electric buses in action during a 12-month trial beginning in the second quarter of 2014.

Regional operator Rhein-Neckar-Verkehr GmbH (RNV) will test the new technology along one of its inner city routes. Germany’s federal Ministry of Transport is providing 3.3 million euros ($4.4 million) to four project partners—RNV, the city of Mannheim, Bombardier Transportation and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

Two buses outfitted with units under the floor of the vehicles will get charged by underground induction energy transfer stations each time they stop along the route. Laforge said the underground charges are safe for people passing over them.

The buses built by the Swiss manufacturer Carrosserie HESS AG will also be equipped with Bombardier’s new Mitrac powertrain for city buses. An electric van equipped with the Primove technology will also be tested as a RNV service vehicle.

The Germany team said the project will help to determine a framework for infrastructure, batteries, inductive energy transfer and daily operation by testing the new technology on a real-life route.

Bombardier says the technology could be attractive for governments looking to electrifying transit systems without installing overhead wires.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois hailed the electrification of transit as a vision for the 21st century. She recently said such a move would reduce greenhouse gases and allow for the replacement of $30 million of crude oil that is imported daily, mostly for transportation.

The province has created a $200-million clean transportation fund.

The Primove technology, in development for more than five years, needs to be tested before it is sold commercially to transit systems.

Bombardier is confident there’s a huge potential market for use of the technology by buses, but said it won’t reduce the demand for light rail or subway systems that are directly supplied by Bombardier.

©The Canadian Press