5 questions about electric buses answered

5 questions about electric buses answered

Zero-emission transportation? Now that’s electrifying! Battery electric buses are gaining speed as a new norm for transportation that is environmentally friendly. But how exactly do they work? We’re answering the top five frequently asked questions surrounding electric buses.

1. What is an electric bus?

A battery electric bus is an electric vehicle that replaces the traditional combustion engine and transmission with an electric motor and a battery. In an electric bus, there is no longer an engine, nor fuel tank. Instead, the electric motor on the bus serves as the engine and transmission, while the battery is essentially the “fuel tank.”  

Electric buses work by sending a signal to the powertrain system controller upon start. That signal powers up the high-voltage battery, where chemical energy is stored, and converts it into electrical energy. This electrical energy is then distributed throughout all the different components that make the bus run, such as the electric motor and thermal management system.

Bluebird battery electric school bus equipped with a Cummins battery system
Bluebird battery electric school bus equipped with a Cummins battery system
Gillig battery electric transit bus equipped with a Cummins battery system
Gillig battery electric transit bus equipped with a Cummins battery system

2. What is the range of an electric bus?

The range of an electric bus is the distance a bus can cover before running out of charge. How long this range is depends on a variety of factors, including battery size and duty cycles.

Battery size correlates to how big of a "fuel tank" an electric vehicle has. Bigger batteries can store more energy, which in turn can fuel longer distances. For example, transit buses typically require bigger batteries than school buses because they need to run for longer periods of time and need more fuel to do so.

The second factor that significantly affects the range of an electric bus is the duty cycle. Duty cycles describe how the vehicle is used and helps determine performance and battery life.

A battery electric bus route mapped out
A battery electric bus route mapped out

Consider the following analogy to understand duty cycles:

  • You live on the third floor of an apartment building and like to take the stairs. The energy required to ascend these flights of stairs isn't too strenuous, and you'd be operating at a “light-duty” cycle. 
  • Suppose you have to carry a 50 lb. weight with you up the three flights of stairs. In that case, you are working harder and would be operating at a “medium-duty” cycle. 
  • Now, you have decided to carry a piano up the three flights of stairs. You are using maximum energy and would be operating a “heavy-duty” cycle. 

For buses, factors that affect how demanding a duty cycle is include road conditions, driving conditions, vehicle speed, number of stops/starts, elevation changes, how quickly you accelerate, weight transported, weather and more. A lighter duty cycle will use less energy than a heavier duty cycle. Therefore, with light-duty cycles, electric buses can achieve a greater range.

3. How do electric buses charge?

There are a few ways that electric vehicle fleets can charge. Which is best for a particular fleet depends on the duty cycle and battery size of its buses. 

Today, the two main types of chargers for an electric bus are:

  1. Plug-in chargers
  2. Pantograph chargers

Plug-in chargers for buses work very similarly to those used for electric cars. Electric buses have ports that a driver can plug into. With this method, charging can take anywhere from two to eight hours, based on the charger's current (which we’ll explain momentarily).

A plug-in charger for an electric school bus
A plug-in charger for an electric school bus

A new, more autonomous charger is the pantograph charger. With this charger, buses drive underneath a charging station, and robotic arms attach themselves to the electrical conductors on top of the vehicle to charge it. This charger is designed to carry more current and allows for faster charging.
 
In addition to being either plug-in or pantograph, a charger is also characterized by how it converts electric currents, classified as either a direct current (DC) charger or an alternating current (AC) charger. All batteries need DC power to function, and both types of chargers convert AC power to DC power. DC chargers are faster but come at a higher cost. AC chargers are slower but are very affordable.
While plug-in chargers can be AC or DC chargers, pantograph chargers are only DC. DC plug-in chargers can charge a battery up to 150 KW, while pantograph chargers can charge up to 350 KW. 
 
No matter what your charging choice, Cummins has worked hard to make our battery systems compatible with all of the leading chargers available in today's market.

A bus driver operating a Blue Bird electric school bus
A bus driver operating a Blue Bird electric school bus

4. Why are battery electric buses becoming more popular?

Sustainability is a main driver in electric buses becoming more common. As governments implement more intense emissions regulations and corporations advance their sustainability goals, electric buses are seen as the suitable zero-emissions solution that can help cities and communities meet their environmental objectives, without compromising their transportation infrastructure.

Electric buses also have instant torque that improves drivability/performance. Drivers are able to accelerate more responsively, making buses with electrified systems more desirable.

Electric buses also offer improved driver comfort. This is because electric motors are much quieter and allow smooth handling. This improved driving experience reduces driver fatigue.

5. Are electric buses cheaper?

While the initial cost of purchasing an electric bus isn’t cheaper than internal combustion engine (ICE) buses, they are becoming more affordable. There are a number of incentive programs in place that buyers can take advantage of that make electric buses the same cost to the city or district as a conventional bus. 

Cost savings occurs in the operation of electric bus fleets over time. They have lower maintenance costs and fuel costs, as they don’t require diesel fuel. Electric buses also run more efficiently with regenerative braking, which simultaneously lowers the wear on the braking system and captures the kinetic energy to feed back into the battery to extend the range of the bus. With traditional braking, the kinetic energy was once “wasted” through the service brakes and transferred into heat, meaning regenerative braking is more efficient.

A technician working on the undercarriage of a Blue Bird electric school bus
A technician working on the undercarriage of a Blue Bird electric school bus

Across the U.S., communities are looking to make their fleets more sustainable and have already begun adding both electrified school and transit buses to their fleets. Cummins alone has already assisted in delivering over 400 buses across the country, each equipped with the Cummins Battery Electric System. This system is built to be zero-emission when in use, reduce service and create savings, all while maintaining vehicle performance.

For more information and news about Cummins New Power, sign up for our New Power newsletter.

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Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

5 businesses that can benefit from selling Cummins generators

Cummins dealer discussing home generator

Ninety percent of American business are small- and medium-size. They are the true engines of our economy, employing millions of workers. With many of them looking for new ways to expand their services, generate income and grow their businesses, Cummins home standby and portable generators could be a new source of revenue. 

A Silver Lining in Dark Clouds

According to the Associated Press, power outages from severe weather have doubled over the past two decades, straining our country’s aging power grid. This has increased the frequency and duration of power outages. These frequent outages create a need for reliable backup power for households and other businesses. And for enterprising small- and medium-size businesses, satisfying this need with Cummins generators is a huge opportunity.   

Which businesses could benefit the most from becoming Cummins authorized dealers? Here are our top five:

1. General Contractors — When natural disasters such as ice storms, hurricanes, high winds, forest fires or earthquakes hit, lost power isn’t the only challenge customers face. There is often physical damage to property that must be repaired. When they are helping customers to rebuild, general contractors have an opportunity to estimate home or business’s energy needs and suggest adding a Cummins QuietConnect™ Home Standby Generator. If the customer agrees, the general contractor not only profits from the sale of the generator, but also the labor to install it.

2. Electricians — A good electrician is a trusted source of information. Not only are they experts with the flow of electrons, they often know their customer’s specific electrical setups. After a prolonged power outage, many are often asked “Is there anything you can do to keep my electricity on the next time the power goes out?” Electricians who sell and install Cummins QuietConnect Home Standby Generators can say, “Yes, yes there is.” Installing home standby generators can be another valuable service that electricians provide.

3. Heating & Cooling Contractors — During a power outage, one of the most critical systems knocked offline for home and business owners is their central heating and cooling system. Going without heat or cool air for a long period of time is not only uncomfortable, it can be dangerous if the temperatures are extreme outside. So, naturally, once power is restored, finding a way to keep the HVAC system on during the next power outage becomes top-of-mind. Since heating and cooling contractors are experts at installing large systems in homes and businesses, adding Cummins QuietConnect standby generators to homes and businesses is a natural way to add another profit center to their businesses.

4. Online Retailers — Up until now, we’ve been discussing standby generators. For businesses that don’t specialize in installing generators permanently into place, Cummins portable generators can be a moneymaker.  While portable generators can be used during power outages, they are better suited to smaller tasks due to their portability. This makes them ideal for camping, tailgating, construction worksites and more. With Cummins’ rugged and reliable reputation, our portable generators are ideal for retailers focused on these market segments.

5. Solar Panel Installers — Most home solar panels are connected directly to the power grid. So, when the power goes out, the solar panels stop providing power. For a backup source of electricity, solar panel installers can either install a solar battery backup, which gets charged by the solar panels, or a home standby generator. Typically, solar battery backups can only power a home for a few hours, so if an area is prone to weather-related outages, a home standby generator such as the Cummins QuietConnect is the better choice.

The Time is Now

With more people than ever looking for backup power generation, now’s a great time to expand your company’s offerings by becoming a Cummins authorized dealer. To learn more visit, cummins.com/partners/dealers.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Ten ways to prepare for rolling blackouts

Cummins service disconnect box mounted on side of house

Heat waves that cause excessive demand for electricity…droughts that make hydropower less available…power grids near active wildfires shut down for safety…aging, overstressed power grids…high winds that snap powerlines…these are all reasons why some parts of the country may face planned power outages this year.  

If you live in an area prone to rolling blackouts, here are some tips to help you ready your family for them: 

  • Sign up for notifications from your local electricity utility — If this service is available from your local utility, it can give you a warning to start preparing before the power goes out. 
  • Download our Power Outage Ultimate Checklist — It provides in-depth information about what to do before, during and after an outage. It even shows you what to do for children, pets and family members with medical needs. You can download it here
  • Stockpile nonperishable food and water — Make sure you have a manual can opener, too. Plan to have enough for everyone so your family can stay hydrated and nourished during the blackout. 
  • Make or purchase ice and coolers — If you have enough warning, make or purchase ice so you can pack some of your perishable food in coolers to preserve it. (A refrigerator will only maintain its internal temperature for about four hours, a freezer for about 48 hours.) 
  • Buy flashlights and extra batteries — Blackouts can be, well, black. Flashlights can be used for safety if you need to move around at night but use them sparingly. Make sure you have enough for every family member.
  • Keep mobile phones charged and gas tanks full — Your phones and your vehicles are your lifelines to the outside world. If you have an EV, make sure it’s fully charged. 
  • Practice manually opening garage doors — If you need to drive somewhere, you first need to be able to get your car out of the garage. 
  • Plan for medications that require refrigeration — You may need to store them in a cooler like your refrigerated food until the power returns. 
  • Invest in a whole-home standby generator — For the ultimate peace of mind, consider one of the Cummins QuietConnect™ home standby generators. In the event of a power outage, your generator will automatically switch on and keep your home powered.  
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups — Place them in central locations on every floor so if any carbon monoxide gets in the home, you are immediately alerted. 

Rolling blackouts seem to be becoming more and more common. Fortunately, there are ways to plan ahead and keep them from completely disrupting your life. To see the different ways that Cummins can help your family keep the power on during these planned power outages, visit us at cummins.com/na/generators/home-standby/whole-house-and-portable or find a local dealer at cummins.com/na/generators/home-standby/find-a-dealer

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Cummins Turbo Technologies gears up to launch the 8th Generation Holset Series 400 Variable Geometry Turbocharger

8th generation HE400VGT

As emission regulations become more stringent, Cummins Turbo Technologies (CTT) is committed to helping customers reduce emissions and advance fuel economy through innovative new air handling technologies.

Built on 70 years of innovation and dependability, CTT and Holset have introduced a wide range of industry leading air handling technologies. In 2021, CTT launched the 7th generation 400 series Variable Geometry Turbocharger (VGT) to help engine manufacturers meet future emission standards and offer best in class fuel economy. At Cummins, innovation never stops as we continue to advance our current technologies, while developing new ones. With this philosophy in mind, CTT is now preparing to introduce the 8th generation HE400VGT. It is specifically engineered to have top of class performance, reliability and durability for the 10-15L heavy-duty truck market.  

CTT has made significant improvements in turbocharger performance with its latest generation of products. The 8th generation turbocharger will have 5 percent improved efficiency over the previous 7th generation turbo.

In addition to offering improved turbocharger efficiency, which helps customers in engine downsizing, the HE400VGT will have a better transient response, enhanced compressor side oil leak robustness and dual sourcing on key components for supply chain flexibility.

Key highlights of the Holset HE400VGT include a new bearing system and near zero clearances to enhance performance and transient response. These enhancements are achieved by tighter clearances on the compressor stage, lower radial movement on the turbine stage, improved surface finish and new aero designs.

Scheduled to be launched in 2024, this turbocharger incorporates a next generation smart electric actuator and speed sensor with the latest chipset to enhance performance and durability. The dual sourcing strategy helps mitigate any unforeseen electronics shortages that have recently plagued the industry.

Along with the performance enhancements, the latest generation turbocharger will offer best-in-class performance for on-highway heavy-duty trucks coupled with improved fuel economy at key vehicle running points.

“CTT has incorporated exciting new technologies in our latest HE400VGT to help engine customers meet strict emissions requirements and reduce their total cost of ownership,” said Matthew Franklin, Director – Product Management & Marketing. As customers establish their strategies for upcoming emission regulations, CTT continues to build on the success of previous turbocharger launches to deliver innovative products that meet the challenges of our customers’ engine development needs without compromising on performance. 

Want to learn more about CTT’s products and technical innovation? Sign up for our quarterly newsletter today.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Rebuild masterstroke pays off for miners

belt buckle with text reading "Cummins 300th QSK60 MCRS Upgrade"

A masterstroke by Cummins engineers in Australia and the US has resulted in major cost reduction and environmental benefits for mining companies electing to rebuild their QSK60 engines under a special upgrade program.

The engineers focused on rebuild possibilities for the early generation QSK60, and how it could be upgraded to the latest diesel technology at overhaul time with no major change to the base 60-litre V16 design – a feat that eluded other engine manufacturers.

The key technology upgrade is to fuel injection, with the early unit injection system (HPI) replaced with the high-pressure modular common rail system (MCRS) that is now featured on all of Cummins’ latest generation high horsepower engines.

The 300th upgraded engine, rated at 2700 hp, recently rolled off the production line at the Cummins Master Rebuild Centre in Brisbane, highlighting yet another successful step in the evolution of the QSK60 and why it is the foremost high-horsepower diesel engine globally in mobile mining equipment.

“Reduced fuel consumption and longer life-to-overhaul are keys to lower total cost of ownership, and they were the initial aims behind the engineering of the upgrade program for the QSK60,” says Greg Field, mining business development manager for Cummins Asia Pacific.

“Innovation is at the core of Cummins’ long history, and it has certainly played its part in the QSK60 rebuild options we can offer our mining customers.”

The bottom line is impressive: Diesel particulate emissions are slashed by up to 63% through in-cylinder combustion technology with no aftertreatment. There’s also a plus for maintenance with less soot loading in the oil.

Fuel savings up to 5% are consistently reported in the field for significant greenhouse gas emissions reduction, while life-to-overhaul is extended by 10%, translating to fuel consumption of more than 4.0 million liters before rebuild is required.

Apart from the fuel system upgrade to MCRS, the QSK60 with single-stage turbocharging also features other Cummins innovations in combustion technology that were engineered for Tier 4 Final and Stage V emissions compliance, the most stringent off-highway emission standards in the world.

The rebuild upgrade package can be applied to the two variants of the QSK60 – one with single-stage turbocharging (known as ‘Advantage’) which can be rated from 1785 to 2700 hp, the other with two-stage turbocharging which can be rated at 2700, 2850 or 3000 hp.

The 300th upgraded QSK60 went to Boggabri Coal in the NSW Gunnedah Basin for installation in a Komatsu 930E haul truck. The engine has proved its worth in both coal and iron ore mining in Australia.

yellow QSK60 engine

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Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

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