E-trolleys should have intended batteries by April
Monday, March 4, 2013
WENATCHEE — The ultra-high-tech batteries intended to power Link Transit’s electric five trolleys may, at last, arrive this month, Link General Manager Rich DeRock said Friday.
Fraught with leaking and overheating problems, the trolleys’ intended lithium-titanate batteries are more than two years behind schedule, but they now appear to be working well at vehicle’s Downey, California manufacturer, Ebus, DeRock said.
Ebus has yet to deliver a single trolley of the five ordered that has operated for more than just a couple months. Link is funding the program with a $2.95 million federal grant.
But the company is making progress.
Bugs have been fixed with the trolleys’ fast-chargers, which have been keeping the zero-emissions vehicles on the road all day along Wenatchee’s Route 9, despite the older-technology nickel-cadmium batteries. These slower-to-charge batteries don’t have the endurance necessary to tackle the hills of East Wenatchee.
DeRock said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the trolleys will be running on their intended batteries in April.
That’s good news, he said, but the it’s too late to properly test the five trolleys before deciding whether to use an additional $2.5 million grant to buy five more.
A new wrinkle in the saga adds to the risk. A Chinese company has purchased the U.S. maker of lithium batteries, DeRock said, and changed the batteries’ size.
The new size won’t work in the trolleys’ existing chassis without a major, costly retrofit.
DeRock said he’ll head to Washington D.C., next week to discuss options for the second grant.
“I still think that the lithium titanate is the long-term answer,” he said. “The question is, what is the risk in the short term, and can we support that?”
The electric trolleys are 11 times less expensive to operate than their diesel counterparts, DeRock has said. But cost over the still-untested vehicles’ lifetime depends on how the batteries hold up to the region’s cold winters.
Christine Pratt: 665-1173
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