Motorcoach

Krystal unveils new electric mid-size shuttle

Posted on July 27, 2011

[IMAGE]KRYSTAL-EVolution-2.jpg[/IMAGE]Via LCT Magazine

A Krystal Infinity dealer debuted the first zero emissions all-electric mid-sized shuttle bus to the federal government this week, proving that efficient, clean group ground transportation is not wedded to costly fossil fuels.

Capitol Coachworks, Inc., Krystal's exclusive distributor of the electric bus based in Capitol Heights, Md., unveiled the 36-passenger "EVolution" mini-bus at the Krystal display during the 11th annual National Motor Vehicle and Aviation Training Exposition (FedFleet 2011), which runs Tuesday to Thursday in Orlando. The expo is considered the largest national transportation event for the federal government agencies that contract for vehicles.

The vehicle will also be on display at the BusCon Expo at Chicago's Navy Pier Sept. 13-14.

Performance power

The 38-foot long plug-in electric vehicle, based on the Krystal KK38 bus model, is capable of a 125-mile range under average loads with a maximum speed of 65 mph.

"The bus has immediate torque and a maximum speed of 72 mph, but by setting the governor at 65 mph, we can extend the batteries," said Krystal CEO and Founder Ed Grech in a press release. "The EVolution is an ADA accessible 36-passenger bus Krystal developed through a strategic partnership with Winston Batteries, an affiliated manufacturer of Rare Earth Lithium-Yttrium and Sulfur rechargeable batteries."  

The EVolution is built on a commercial International chassis. Before the Krystal steel roll cage body is mounted, the engine and accessary drive systems are removed and replaced with a 230-volt AC continuous primary drive and a 40 Kw liquid cooled flux vector motor controller accessory drive. Under a fast charge, the batteries can fully recover in less than one hour.

The shuttle bus also has sealed electrically isolated battery modules that do not produce any gases, and a drive train that is free of any emissions. Krystal has set up a coast-to-coast technical support network for its electric and hybrid diesel electric buses through a distributor organization.

Production rollout

Krystal plans an initial production release of 10 EVolution buses in anticipation of a unique contract from unnamed federal agencies within the next 60 days, said David L. Webb, president of Capitol Coachworks Inc., in an interview with LCT on Wednesday. The federal government clients will be able to order more shuttles beyond the first 10. "We anticipate a lot of activity," he said.

Capitol Coachworks already has sold hundreds of Krystal vehicles, including at least 40 diesel hybrid electric shuttles, to many federal agencies through contracts with the General Services Administration. Those include the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, Veterans Administration, Department of Energy, and National Park Services.

The launch of the EVolution culminates a rapid timeline that started with Krystal devising the EVolution vehicle concept and design in November 2010; promoting an initial smaller prototype electric bus version at the 2011 International LCT Show in February; and then re-adapting the concept to the larger KK38 model. The KK38 is more viable for now, but Krystal likely will introduce a smaller version electric shuttle in the future, Webb said.

Private sector potential

One benefit for future commercial customers of the EVolution is that the development costs are being funded from the sales to government agencies. "The government is paying for developing costs for the initial units, so commercial operators will not pay for that," Webb told LCT. "We can amortize all the development costs for the first units."

A Krystal EVolution bus costs $459,000 plus options and freight. As the government contractors are discovering, buying from a high-quality manufacturer such as Krystal eventually provides better long-term value when factoring the comfort, efficiency, economics and durability of their vehicles, Webb said.

For commercial operators and private limousine companies, the EVolution will prove ideal for wine tours, nights out on the town, weddings, and other special events with a predictable route range, Webb said. The EVolution is a sound investment for any chauffeured transportation operation that handles client runs where the bus returns to its base each night or serves government and corporate transportation contracts with environmental requirements, he said.

"It's not a line-haul bus and not a tour coach vehicle, but if [operators] are interested in virtually no maintenance and fuel costs, and they have long time horizon, and they have an environmental perspective, it's a great opportunity," Webb said.

Bright horizons

As the nation's electric charging infrastructure grows in coming years, the EVolution will become more attractive to a broader range of customers. The battery technology will evolve in the next few years to the point where vehicle batteries can deliver twice the current range, Webb said.

Most significant about the new technology is the ability to configure and manage the lithium cell batteries as individually managed units, Webb explained. That means each cell can be charged, used, and replaced at different rates and at different intervals depending on energy demand and performance.

Krystal's other alternative energy buses include the hybrid diesel electric KK38, KK35 and KK31 models, and bio-diesel KK38, KK35, and KK31 models. Krystal is now building three hybrid diesel electric buses for Yosemite National Park and just finished one for the FBI, Webb said. "There is a groundswell in people embracing the technology now."

Sources: Martin Romjue, LCT editor; Krystal Infinity

 

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