ABC Companies recently completed an unprecedented long-distance road trip with MTRWestern, a customer in the Pacific Northwest, that demonstrates the power and reliability of the Van Hool CX45E and the grid infrastructure.
ABC Companies provided a new 100% battery-electric Van Hool CX45E motorcoach for the road test. This is the same make and model ABC began delivering to customers in early 2021 and is used for data collection and performance benchmarking, the company said.
The demonstration covered nearly 1,700 miles and went from Newark, California, to Seattle and back. During several legs of the journey, various MTRWestern passenger groups traveled aboard the CX45E.
Existing public charging stations were used along the route. The motorcoach averaged 280 miles of total projected range between charges, with some legs projecting in excess of 300 miles. These ranges are raising the bar for EV commercial passenger vehicles and reflect what is available now through ABC Companies.
Public charging stations used
This demonstration also was designed to test the viability of using public charging stations along a typical route. Stations were available at regular intervals with plenty of range to spare, although several locations were not designed to readily accommodate larger passenger vehicles. Charging times were shorter than projected, averaging 2.5 to 3 hours, as the vehicle never used more than 65% of the available battery on each leg of the trip due to the energy density of the standard Proterra Powered battery packs.
Roman Cornell, ABC President/Chief Commercial Officer, said the company is beating its own distance records with the CX45E, and that customers who have the CX45E are seeing increases in range as their drivers improve their ability to manage energy usage.
“We utilize real-time telematics measuring everything from energy consumption, charge rates, vehicle performance and more, so we are able to work with our customers and continually improve energy consumption and therefore range,” Cornell said. “Our continued success with the Proterra Powered electric drivetrain just keeps pushing the current boundaries for zero-emissions motorcoach travel.”
Designed for large group transport, the Van Hool CX45E is ABC’s battery-electric version of its flagship premium passenger CX45 clean diesel model. Starting with the highly efficient Van Hool CX45 design, the development of an electric version brings a proven package for customers seeking to reduce carbon emissions. Premium passenger and driver amenities offer enhanced drivability, passenger comfort and performance – all in a zero-emissions platform.
Road test conditions, parameters and results
The vehicle traveled at an average speed of 54 mph through challenging terrain, including elevations of 5,600-plus feet through the picturesque Cascade-Siskiyou National Forest, and with an average temperature of 55 degrees. ABC telematics continually captured real-time data to measure operator and equipment performance. Key performance indicators, including kilowatt-hour consumption, charge rates, kWh regeneration and more, are analyzed against projections and benchmarked with thousands of miles of data from other CX45Es in operation. This demonstration with MTRWestern exceeded expectations, providing more quantifiable data for customer- specific applications, allowing operators to optimize operations.
The coach’s low-center of gravity and quiet, almost noise-free ride deliver a premium driver and rider experience, at lower operating costs and zero emissions. Even on steep grades, the CX45E easily glided with moving traffic and used regenerative braking during extended downhill braking situations, generating substantial energy that went back into the battery packs, further increasing efficiency and range.
- Round trip averaged 280 miles of projected range per charge while in commercial operation.
- Total energy used 3,400 kWh vs 262 gallons of equivalent diesel fuel.
- Significant energy cost savings, depending on electric rates at time and location of charge.
- .2.3 metric tons of C02 emissions were avoided during the demonstration.
MTRWestern is among the first operators in the U.S. to offer true zero-emission green travel.
“Our groups were extremely excited to experience EV travel firsthand, and their feedback provides critical insight as we test EV integration within our fleet,” said Todd Paulson, Director of Operations at MTRWestern. “Both passengers and drivers were impressed by the incredibly quiet ride, and our drivers were especially pleased with the smooth coach handling and power, particularly during elevation gains. They also reported relative ease-of-use at all charging points.”
Charging on the grid was easily managed thanks to the 280-plus mile range of the CX45E. The CX45E uses a standardized J1772-CCS Type 1 Charger that allowed for maximum flexibility for charging stops over the two-day period. Charging site sizes and layouts generally do not support a commercial vehicle of this size, highlighting the need for forward-looking designers of charging infrastructure to incorporate larger parking spots with wide turning radius or pull-through access.
Benefiting fleets of all sizes
Cornell said ABC is proud to be a pioneer in the future of electric passenger transport for fleets of all sizes.
“With so many opportunities, from micro-transport to mobility-as-a-service, contract operations, employee shuttle service, large group tours, charters and more, ABC’s EV strategy is focused on helping customers of all fleet sizes leverage the competitive advantages of zero-emissions passenger vehicles while improving the communities where they are based,” he said.
The Van Hool CX45E is offered through ABC’s SVT (Specialty Vehicles & Technologies) division, which focuses on discovering and bringing transformative mobility options to its customers. It also is emerging as the leader in simplifying EV fleet integration for private and public operations. As ABC gains new clients, a focus on education, training, equipment operation and infrastructure guidance are featured in the company’s “Plug into Savings” program, which was launched in 2020.
“Working and testing with forward-thinking companies like MTRWestern allows ABC to continue refining our industry-exclusive “Plug into Savings” electric-vehicle onboarding program,” said Thom Peebles, Vice President, ABC Companies. “Between the training, real-time monitoring, charger interoperability, energy-use strategies and more, the program takes the complexity away from the customer so they can focus on the immediate benefits of zero-emission vehicles in their fleets.”