Electric bus fleet battery management
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E-Bus Fleet Management

September 5, 2023

The transport sector is decarbonizing fast. Alongside this development, we have also been witnessing a data revolution. This new data technology can be used to empower e-bus fleet management. The article explains how data and battery analytics help to optimally manage batteries.

Electric bus fleet battery management
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How battery analytics can optimize e-bus fleet management

Throughout the EU, the transport sector is decarbonizing fast. We are seeing electric passenger cars become more popular every year. But the electrification of public transport is gaining the most momentum.

According to current market trends, 2023 will be the year that electric city buses outsell diesel-fueled buses in the EU for the first time. While in the US, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is creating a similar push, with various tax credits and government grants helping to accelerate the EV transition.

In the Netherlands specifically, 27% of all city buses are already electric, and other countries will soon catch up. As part of the European Green Deal, the European Commission has recently proposed to make all new city buses in the EU zero-emission by 2030.

So fleet operators will have to be prepared for this transition and the new world of electrified public transportation. Many will be concerned about costs; particularly the battery-related expenses involved. The collective value of a fleet’s batteries comprises millions of euros per operator easily. So sustainable asset management will have to be of the highest priority for transport companies as this electricity revolution intensifies.

Thankfully, alongside this electricity revolution, we have also been witnessing a data revolution. Advancements in computing, data storage, and communication are allowing us to generate, collect, process, and utilize data like never before.

And this new data technology can be used to empower e-bus fleet management. More and better data can provide real-time actionable insights, predictive analytics, and advanced monitoring capabilities. And while asset management and optimization like this is not a new phenomenon in general, when it comes to optimally managing batteries specifically, it is. This will enable fleet managers to optimize battery performance, extend battery life, and contribute to the overall efficiency and sustainability of e-bus operations.

The best way to achieve this is through battery analytics.

Using Battery Analytics to Optimize E-Bus Fleet Management

No matter what kind of bus fleet you’re managing, whether it be diesel buses or electric ones, certain formulas will always apply. Ensuring safe, reliable (on-time), and efficient (low TCO) operations will always be the aim. But the how is changing substantially at the moment.

As bus fleets become more electric, battery analytics has become an inevitable cornerstone for achieving these aims. It does this by allowing fleet managers to always know the details regarding battery performance.

Why It’s Important to Know the Details

It is always fundamental to understand a battery at its core –each battery individually. Following simple rules or high-level best practices — and adhering to the recommendations provided by battery manufacturers for optimal usage, maintenance, and storage — is a good place to start for ensuring optimal battery performance. But it only gets you so far with batteries.

Be aware that details matter. Understanding batteries fully requires accurate, reliable, continuous information because batteries are complex.

For anyone managing an e-bus fleet, accurately and continuously understanding battery State of Health is essential for ensuring safe, reliable, and efficient operations.

(In simple terms, battery aging is reflected in its State of Health, which basically indicates how much capacity a battery system is still able to deliver compared to its initial capacity. This has a direct impact on a vehicle’s level of safety, range, and availability.)

Unfortunately, accurately tracking battery aging is not as simple as taking a State of Health reading. Really understanding a battery’s health requires more detailed information, as State of Health readings are both unreliable and inaccurate:

  • Reliability: can be difficult to know exactly what State of Health means because there is no universal definition. For example, it can be unclear whether the State of Health refers to the capacity available for vehicle operations, the gross capacity of the entire battery system, or the voltage window that is used. Or whether the State of Health is related to ideal conditions or average usage conditions.

    This lack of a clear definition means that decisions made based on a simple State of Health reading are often flawed and unreliable.
  • Accuracy: Even when there is a clear definition, often it is not implemented accurately. An example of this is with BMS (Battery Management Systems), which often communicate a battery’s State of Health. BMS State of Health algorithms are only accurate at the beginning of a battery’s life. This means that as the battery degrades, the State of Health reading becomes inaccurate, essentially making it pointless.

Even if State of Health readings were reliable and accurate, continuously monitoring them would require regular tests. But as reliable tests require multiple people to conduct and take each bus out of operation for 24-48 hours, they can be very prohibitive financially.

Battery analytics offers a way to overcome these issues by providing the detailed information required to fully understand each battery. This leads to many advantages.

Advantages of Accurate, Reliable, and Continuous State of Health Information
Saves Time and Money by Reducing Largescale Testing

As mentioned, running regular State of Health tests can be very costly. Battery analytics reduces the need to do this by providing continuous insights into battery health. Depending on fleet size, this can save fleet operators a lot of time and money.

Swapping Batteries at the Right Time

A lot of the value in batteries is hidden in the details. If fleet operators are forced to depend on unreliable and inaccurate State of Health information, they will inevitably swap old batteries for new ones at suboptimal times or even if it's not needed at all. This means they will end up discarding batteries that still have useful life left in them.

The detailed information battery analytics constantly provides means that this should never happen. This leads to significant cost-savings overtime.

Streamlining Warranty Discussions Towards Battery Suppliers

Electric vehicle batteries often come with long-lasting but complex warranties. And when there is no clear definition or measurement of a battery’s State of Health, these warranties can become even more complicated.

If fleet operators for example determine that their batteries have a strong State of Health, there is no guarantee that the OEM will accept this reading. OEMs are under no obligation to accept the State of Health provided by operators.

In cases like this, battery analytics helps to improve transparency. It provides access to comprehensive battery data and accurate State of Health information, which streamlines warranty discussions and saves time for everybody involved.

Eliminate the Guesswork

Ultimately, battery analytics can eliminate the guesswork for e-bus fleet managers. The constant flow of accurate and reliable information about each battery’s State of Health allows managers to optimize fleet performance with confidence and precision.

This helps to keep the operations safe and reliable, and costs at a minimum.

Conclusion

It’s clear that e-buses are becoming the new norm, and that obtaining accurate battery State of Health information is crucial to optimizing e-bus fleet management. Some key points to take away here are:

  • Across the globe, diesel buses are gradually being phased out, and will soon be replaced by electric ones entirely.
  • Alongside this electricity revolution, we have also been witnessing a data revolution.
  • With more and better data — and the use of battery analytics to maximize the value of that data — it’s possible to make e-bus operations safe, reliable, and efficient.
  • Understanding the details about a battery’s performance is essential for achieving this. The current systems in place (BMS)are not reliable enough, and therefore more advanced solutions like battery analytics are needed.
  • Battery analytics helps to provide accurate information about a battery’s State of Health.
  • This saves time and money by reducing the need for large-scale testing, allowing optimal timing for battery swaps, and streamlining warranty discussions with OEMs.

If you are managing an e-bus fleet yourself and would like to learn how TWAICE’s predictive battery analytic software can help you optimize your own fleet, please feel free to contact us today.

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