The stumbling block for electric vehicles has consistently been price — even the latest technology is rather expensive. But on Thursday GE showed off an electric bus with a dual-battery system that combines a lithium ion battery and a sodium metal halide battery, and which GE says is 20 percent less expensive than a comparable one battery system for an electric bus.
How does GE get a lower price tag with two batteries instead of one? Well, a big enough lithium ion battery to run an electric bus would be mighty expensive. That’s partly why natural gas and fuel cell buses — and not all-electric buses — have made headway when it comes to bus buyers like city governments. But buses don’t need to be super high performance vehicles, and don’t need all of the heft and acceleration that a lithium battery provides.
So GE cut down the size of the lithium ion battery and replaced the rest of the battery needs with the less expensive sodium battery, which also has a better energy storage capacity. GE calls its dual battery system “combines the best attributes of both chemistries into a single system.”
Right now, this is just research. Specifically part of a $13-million research project for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Northeast Advanced Vehicle Consortium, and the National Fuel Cell Bus Program. But the work could help lead to the emergence of less expensive electric vehicles in government and corporate fleets.
That’s where the bulk of alternative vehicles are first landing. GE announced earlier this month that it would buy 25,000 electric vehicles for its own corporate use, which would be the largest single purchase of electric vehicles to date. And a natural gas SUV that will target taxis and fleets just got a low-interest loan from the Department of Energy.
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