Rain or Shine, Solar Panels offer Bright Solution for CT Transit

November 06, 2018

With schedules to keep and countless people depending on public transit daily, reliability is paramount when it comes to city transit buses. One common battle that transit maintenance teams fight involves fast-draining batteries, but CT Transit in Hartford, Connecticut, has found a bright solution from Thermo King.

“Certain buses are notorious for dead batteries after sitting for any length of time,” said Dan Fiorillo, Superintendent of Maintenance Training & Technical Services at CT Transit in Hartford, Connecticut. “It’s a constant challenge to ensure batteries are charged and buses are ready for our routes.”

That was the impetus to a trial of Thermo King’s ThermoLite™ solar panels on a 2010 Nova LFS Articulated 60 foot non-hybrid fixed-route transit bus that operates out of CT Transit’s Hamden facility. The trial began in August 2017 on the bus, which features a Cummins ISL and Allison B500 drivetrain. According to Fiorillo, morning no-starts, road calls and battery replacements were common so when Thermo King offered a solar panel trial to alleviate the frustrations, it was a no-brainer.

 

Four ThermoLite solar panels were installed on the Nova LFS, and the bus was placed back into service with a wireless datalogger collecting graphical data to record charging parameters.The solar panels have consistently put 18-20 amps peak power back into the batteries no matter the season, day-in and day-out, since they were installed.

“Now, more than one year later, we have had zero issues. No mechanic concerns or abnormal service calls,” said Fiorillo. “And the panels are charging in all seasons and lighting situations. Cloudy days or inside storage have not hindered the performance of the system in any way. The panels charge under halogen, fluorescent and LED lighting, which means we never have to cycle the battery disconnect during indoor storage.

“A performance check has showed a constant surface charge being maintained with no sign of deterioration. The panels have not been negatively affected by adverse weather or our drive through bus wash rack. We have nothing but positive feedback on this system,” commented Fiorillo.

How the system works

During off-duty periods, a moderate parasitic power draw was draining batteries of the Nova bus. The Thermo King solar panels harvest enough energy to keep batteries in peak charge condition, which offloads the unit alternator, reducing fuel consumption and extending alternator life. The panels are also conditioning batteries to take long off-duty periods without sacrificing starting capability.

Flexibility lends well to varying bus designs

Thermo King’s ThermoLite solar panels, which are part of a complete Power Solutions product portfolio, come in various sizes and models and are easy to install. They are extremely durable but are moldable to accommodate various bus designs and roof radiuses.

“We’re thrilled with the performance of the solar panels and excited to share this success story with other transits,” said Joel Dekovitch, Bus Regional Sales manager for Thermo King. “This is one bus of thousands in operation around the U.S. which are dealing with similar battery issues. And with anti-idling laws only getting more stringent, the challenge is not going away – every battery discharge uses up battery life, plain and simple …The deeper the discharge, the shorter the life.

“Our solar panels, which prevent deep cycles and exponentially improve battery life, have proven to be a viable, reliable and environmentally-friendly solution.”

Learn more about Thermo King’s ThermoLite solar panels at www.thermoking.com.

 

Thermo King’s ThermoLite solar panels were placed on a CT Transit bus similar to the one shown here.

CT Transit Bus with ThermoLite solar panels