By Sherlyn Seah
Charging a public bus is now faster than charging your mobile phone, thanks to NTU’s recent development in public transport.
In a collaboration with electric car-sharing service BlueSG, NTU has launched Singapore’s first flash-charge electric shuttle – it takes only 20 seconds to recharge between stations. A typical electric vehicle takes four to eight hours to fully charge.
This is just one of the several projects headed by the university in its bid to herald a new age of public transportation. With NTU leading research in new transport technologies, there has been much buzz about these developments, especially on campus.
Campus as testing ground
NTU launched its 22-seater electric shuttle, the NTU Blue Solutions Flash Shuttle, last month. It is currently running a test route between the North Hill Hall cluster and JTC CleanTech One in the Jurong Innovation District.
Special charging stations allow for quick charging while passengers board and alight. The shuttle travels two kilometres on a single charge with backup power providing for an additional 30 kilometres, according to a press release by NTU.
“The vehicle aims to be as efficient as tram systems along with fast-charge and an emission-free continuous operation,” said Marie Bollore, managing director of Blue Solutions, the parent company of BlueSG.
But unlike trams, this electric shuttle operates continuously without needing to terminate its service to charge up.
Scientists from NTU’s Energy Research Institute (ERIAN) will study the actual on-road performance of the flash shuttle, including the user behaviour of passengers.
This research partnership with BlueSG will run for two years, supported by Singapore’s Economic Development Board.
As part of the trials, NTU students would soon be able to ride the shuttle from the second half of 2018, exciting many who have seen the bus around.
One of them is Hall of Residence 11 resident Ang Rui Li.
“I’m receptive towards the minibus after hearing about the project and can’t wait to try it,” said the second-year student from the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.
Ang, 20, also hopes that the future implementation of electric buses will shorten her travelling time.
“If these buses can operate continuously with the fast-charging, there will hopefully be more buses on the road since they don’t need to refuel outside the campus.”
However, there are still some who are skeptical about these electric shuttles.
“Electric-powered devices seem to be susceptible to power failures, as compared to fuel as a tangible resource. If the electricity fails, that might just make existing bus problems worse,” said second-year student Rachel Won from the Nanyang Business School.
But according to NTU, the buses have batteries that power them internally and will not be prone to power interruptions.
With new projects all centered around the use of electric buses, there is a shift away from traditional vehicles in NTU that rely on fuel.
“This will greatly benefit the environment,” said Prof Wong Yiik Diew from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He regularly takes the campus shuttle buses as well as the electric shuttle for college staff on weekends.
Electric buses also provide better travel journeys as they tend to be quieter and run more smoothly, said the associate professor, who specialises in transportation engineering and planning. Petrol-run buses tend to be bumpier and noisier due to their engines.
“While these initiatives are costly, it is a good investment for NTU and Singapore,” said Prof Wong.