TOSA Hitachi Energy Switzerland

Grid-eMotion® Flash - wireless charging for e-buses

Hitachi Energy’s ultra-fast recharging solution for electric buses has proved a success in Geneva and Nantes. This system, the only one of its kind in the world, is soon to be used in Brisbane’s new Metro trackless tram network and it’s in pole position to help European operators reduce the carbon footprint of their bus fleets.

The result of a joint development project by Hitachi Energy, Geneva public transport (TPG) and the utilities company Services industriels de Genève (SIG), the first electric buses not requiring an overhead catenary began circulating in 2018 between the airport and Geneva city centre. “Grid-eMotion® Flash is the fastest charging system in the world,” says André Burdet, Head of eMobility at Hitachi Energy’s Global Center of Competence. The bus roofs are fitted with a very-high-power-density battery and an articulated robot arm which enables them to recharge in just a few minutes at the terminus and, if necessary, top up the battery at certain intermediate stops while the passengers are getting on and off. The articulated robot arm gives the bus a positioning and stopping tolerance every bit as good as a diesel bus and the connection/disconnection time is extremely rapid.

With several years’ commercial operation under its belt, the technology has proved it works well. Now a convert, TPG is set to equip six more bus routes with the technology by 2030. The system unlocks a saving of 100 tonnes of CO2 per bus per year, totalling 12,000 tonnes annually for the entire fleet currently operating the city’s routes. In 2020, the French city of Nantes also adopted the Grid-eMotion® Flash system, winning the international prize awarded by the International Association of Public Transport for its e-Busways. Other installation projects are under way in France, Italy, Germany, Sweden and the United States. The technology is also set to be used in a new trackless tram network in Brisbane, Australia. “This partnership is very symbolic for us, because Brisbane will host the summer Olympic Games in 2032,” says a beaming André Burdet.

The Grid-eMotion® Flash system not only results in vastly lower carbon emissions than the diesel buses widely used around the world. “Its installation and maintenance costs are much lower than for trolleybuses that use catenaries,” adds André Burdet. “It also does away with networks of overhead cables, which are inflexible and rather unattractive.” It is estimated that only 5 to 10% of Europe’s bus fleets are currently electrified. The potential to roll out the system more widely is therefore enormous, all the more so since European regulations are going to require operators to reduce the carbon footprint of their bus fleets in the coming years. To help them reach net zero, Grid-eMotion® Flash is a mature technology that still has huge development potential. “We’re still in the early stages of its industrial and operational rollout,” concludes André Burdet.