This Barbadian company converted a bus from diesel-engine to an electric powered vehicle

News > The Caribbean

   Jelani Payne | Posted on May 10, 2020

Imagine driving past changing sceneries of rural, urban, and suburban terrains in Barbados, with your face as close as you dare to the open window. You’re in a comfortable yet sturdy seat, which assists your posture and physical experience. The ground grips your feet with equal comfort and reliability. There is mostly silence except for the gentle bounce of the vehicle springs absorbing the shock of the rapidly turning wheels on the road and a surprising occasional low hiss of air from the rear.  Unless you or the person next to you decides to break the quietness, your journey is peaceful, which is odd compared to previous trips in the same vehicle. Built-in USB charging ports keep your devices topped up while on-the-go.

You’re riding in Endless Electric Limited’s latest innovation in Barbados- A modern public Transport Board bus converted from a diesel-engine to an electric vehicle (EV). No longer a “diesel guzzler,” it’s efficiently powered by electricity.

Converted electric-powered bus

The company purchased a non-operational diesel engine Transport Board bus from the Government of Barbados and converted it to an EV. The conversion produced a fully refurbished bus capable of the experience shared at the start of this article.

Bus frame before conversion
Bus frame after conversion

Features in the EV include upgraded seating from the outdated mix of plastic structure and sponge cushion to comfortable, two-toned, plastics seats with USB charging ports for all rows of seats. The bus driver can also enjoy comfort as a system under the driver’s seat absorbs shocks and provides movement controls.

Interior of the bus before conversion
Interior of the bus after conversion

The floor, like the seats, is easy to clean and made from non-slip material.  The design is a wood-grain finish similar to faux or natural wood flooring found in homes.  Easy-to-clean is a nice feature during this time of Covid-19, where public transport interiors need constant cleaning to prevent virus transmission.

Bus exterior before conversion
Bus exterior after conversion

The bus is powered by modular banks of custom, industrial-grade, Lithium-ion battery technology as used in many EVs such as the Tesla brand. The batteries are stored underneath the bus in an aluminium case and liquid cooled during driving and charging. This location allows for weight distribution and maintenance access.

A full charge requires 3 hours at 100kW and an on-site 180kW rooftop solar system supplies the charging station.

The bus has a pneumatic braking system and implements regenerative braking. The regenerative braking converts the motion of the wheels to energy, which charges the batteries and prevents energy wastage from braking as heat. Regenerative braking also allows for less brake maintenance.

Battery case
Charging station

The rear engine bay contains energy management, electric motor control, and pneumatic systems.  These control battery drain and charging, motor input and output as well as compressed air storage for braking and doors. The electric motor provides 56% more torque than its diesel-engine predecessor. So Barbadians are assured the bus can more than handle the island’s steep Horse Hill, St. Joseph climb.

The bus is approximately the same weight as its predecessor because the electric motor is less bulky. Other heavy systems, for example radiator cooling and exhaust, are no longer needed,  so they were removed.  The most significant weight addition is the battery case.

The company shares information about the project on Facebook.  One post, in particular, a video entitled “Built In Barbados, Recycling A Transport Board Bus” shares the comments of Ricardo Briggs, a retired 39 year veteran of the Barbados Transport Board and presently a Test Driver and Mechanic for Endless Electric Limited.

Briggs noted the ride of the bus was “smooth moving from a standstill as there was no manual transmission to change. It was one progressive movement. There is less wear on the brakes because of the regenerative braking cycle” upgrade on the bus.

“The bus immediately begins to brake by simply removing your foot from the accelerator,” he further expressed.

Many curious Barbadians asked questions on the company’s Facebook page.  One such question was, “can the bus be lowered to sidewalks providing easy access for the elderly?”

The company answered, “it doesn’t have lowering suspension at present, but it is an option that can be installed when requested.”

Presently, some countries have discontinued school until the new school year to prevent increased infection rates while some others migrated classrooms online. Virtual tours at this time would be a neat treat for students interested in and studying STEM areas from primary to tertiary levels. 

The opportunity also exists for tertiary students to identify this modern transport case as a potential project on which they can draw inspiration for tertiary thesis projects at undergraduate and graduate levels.

One comment via the company’s Facebook page notes that this modern form of transport is seemingly more worthy of the BDS. $3.50 Barbadians currently pay per trip for public transportation.


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Jelani Payne
Contributor

Jelani is a Barbadian STEM educator, author, and multidisciplined engineer with 8+ years experience in renewable energy, energy management, manufacturing, marine and HVAC industries. During a career change, he published his first book in 2016. He received an opportunity to teach robotics at a secondary school in 2017 and soon after also began teaching at the Caribbean Science Foundation’s Barbados Junior Robotics (Summer) Camp. Jelani volunteers much of his time to work with students on STEM projects as well as publishing related articles in online and print media. Jelani is a binge reader who is deeply passionate about STEM and business. He also loves how STEM teaches you to think, experiment with and implement concepts.

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