Two of the nearly 1000 hybrid-electric buses operating in London with Microvast replacement battery packs
Microvast Powers a Growing World of eBuses
By Bill Moore
Electric buses are more than just interesting experiments. They are in serious passenger service on revenue routes. And powering many of those buses in China and Europe are lithium titanate batteries from a little known company
When EV World talks about electric buses, two companies usually come to mind: Proterra in the USA and BYD from China. As the editor in chief, I've been tracking the industry for nearly 20 years and never heard of the company I was about to interview.
Maybe that's because they don't actually build electric buses. They power them.
The company is called Microvast out of Huzhou, China. They have a small 8-10 person staff in Houston, Texas. The gentleman heading up the operation there is Han Song. It's his staff and his job to introduce their battery technology to the comparatively small US transit bus market. Globally there are estimated to be just over half-a-million buses in the world. By 2018, this is expected to grow to 664,000, some 41.3K of which are in China compared to less than 5,200 for all of North America, according to Statista.com.
This is why we've heard so little about Microvast. They've rightly focused their attention on those markets where there's a serious need -- and growth potential -- for their product: lithium titanate batteries for buses. Launched in 2006, the company introduced its first battery in 2011. By 2017, their batteries are powering some 15,000 hybrid and pure electric buses worldwide. In the coastal city of Chongqing, close to 1,500 buses use their power packs. In London, nearly 1,000 hybrid double deckers swapped their original lithium iron phosphate with Microvast lithium titanate.
Song explains in this two part video dialogue, with public relations support from Gene Hunt in Boston, that their chemistry has a longer cycle life, losing approximately only 1% capacity per year and are faster changing. Microvast batteries can be rapid charged in 10-to-15 minutes time, which means the operators can get by with smaller battery packs that can be charged multiple times during the work day. It's quite common for operators with Microvast batteries to have their buses in revenue service over routes 250-300 km a day, and 400-500 km on rural routes.
This should improve even more with the introduction of their third generation chemistry that offers 170Wh per kilogram energy density compared to their current 140Wh/kg. The other important benefit of the titanate chemistry is that it's less prone of thermal runaway, those explosive battery fires that occasionally consume cell phones, hover boards and a handful of cargo planes.
The company's marketing strategy is focused first on buses, then taxis, and then passenger cars. They also have a grid storage demonstration project installed at an industrial site outside Burlington, Vermont in cooperation with Green Mountain Power.
Mircovast would appear to be a company to keep an eye on as the world of public transit shifts from fossil fuels to electric.
Video Part 1
Video Part 2
Originally published: 13 Feb 2017
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