Case study: In-vehicle computers help electric buses cut fuel use and emissions

Electric buses in downtown and suburban areas in Japan are using Nexcom in-vehicle computers to cut fuel consumption and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Saddled with rising greenhouse gas emissions and high fuel costs, some prefectural governments see the electric buses as an eco-friendly public transportation that can ease local traffic and economy woes.

The electric buses rely on pre-charged batteries to shuttle back and forth throughout the day. The less energy they use, the longer they can continue to service. Therefore, efficient energy use is one of the most important issues in electric bus applications.

The use of computer technology can improve and optimise the energy usage, allowing real-time closed-loop control and monitoring of the battery and the engine, the environmental control equipment, and other onboard audio and video devices.

Nexcom’s VTC 7110 and VTC 1000 computers have Can bus protocol support, 3G connection, GPS tracking and navigation, and graphics capability. Integrated with Aptpod's telematics software, the computers were selected by Tokyo R&D to achieve the goal of providing a safe, reliable, enjoyable and green transit service for its newly developed large and middle-sized electric buses.

When the electric buses are in transit, the VTC 1000 collects data from hundreds of sensors every few milliseconds and interprets the data into driving speed, bus location, battery discharge rate, battery energy level and so on. They pack the interpreted data and send them to a cloud server over the air. All the vehicle data can be accessed from anywhere, anytime with a web browser and internet connection.

On buses with passenger information display systems, the VTC 7110 keeps passengers informed of their whereabouts, estimated arrival time at the next stop, nearby shops and points of interest, all shown on a Google map. Passengers are also made aware of the amount of CO2 reduced by taking electric buses.

In Okinawa, the traffic in the south continues to build up as the tourism industry steadily grows, which is a major contributing factor to greenhouse gas emission. Similarly, Tokunoshima's vehicle per capita is so high as not only to raise environmental concerns but also doom the local economy because the fuel is more expensive on outlying islands than on mainland Japan.

Meanwhile, Akita is seeking a greener alternative to help locals comfortably commute between suburbs even in cold snowy winters.

Driven by one reason or another, these prefectural governments all take the same approach to improve the situation, putting electric buses on the road.

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