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Transit Training for Safe Transition to Zero-Emissions Bus Technology

Transit Training for Safe Transition to Zero-Emissions Bus Technology

Over the next 15 to 20 years, zero-emission buses (ZEBs) will become the new standard across North America. Already, in just the last two years, US adoption of ZEBs has increased 66% nationwide (according to CALSTART’s 2023 report). Some states, like Arizona and Massachusetts, have already increased their reliance on ZEBs by more than 250%.

Along with their many benefits, ZEBs bring new challenges—ones that simply weren’t present in diesel fleets. Operators need to quickly build the skills to meet these new challenges. For example, safe ZEB operation requires a different kind of situational awareness than many operators are used to. The absence of engine noise with ZEBs means that inattentive people sharing the road with mass transit now have one less warning that they are about to cause an accident. This puts even more pressure on bus drivers to constantly monitor what motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians are doing, and “expect the unexpected.”

In the past, situational awareness training for bus operators needed to focus primarily on what was happening outside the bus: careless drivers, distracted pedestrians, emergency vehicles, weather events, and so on.

However, ZEB operators must be prepared to notice and respond to entirely new hazards associated with EV bus operations. These include hazards that are inside the bus, and largely invisible up until the moment they become emergencies. Consider battery electric vehicle (BEV) thermal events.

Situational Awareness for ZEB Thermal Events

The current generation of battery EVs relies on lithium-ion batteries that can be susceptible to thermal runaway, cell rupture, and even explosion. In 2017 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that “the propensity and severity of fires and explosions from the accidental ignition of flammable electrolytic solvents used in Li-ion battery systems are anticipated to be somewhat comparable to or perhaps slightly less than those for gasoline or diesel vehicular fuels.” That’s the good news.

But EV fires burn three times hotter than a gas or diesel vehicle fire. They are prone to reignition and require different fire suppression strategies than gasoline or diesel vehicle fires. A thermal event might be triggered by a collision, a system fault, or seemingly come out of nowhere (from the driver’s perspective). Operators of zero-emissions buses need to be prepared to quickly identify a potential thermal event and take appropriate action.

FAAC Transit simulators offer the most comprehensive situational awareness training solution on the market today. This starts with an immersive training hardware platform outfitted with wide field-of-view 4K monitors, TrueFeel Force feedback steering, Doppler surround sound, and optional multi-degree-of-freedom motion systems. Our MB2000 runs a complete transit driving simulation software environment that emulates both standard driving challenges (erratic traffic, inclement weather, careless pedestrians or cyclists, congestion, emergency vehicles, etc.) and BEV-specific problems and equipment failures.

Prepare for the Future of Mass Transit

FAAC simulation solutions are already in the field, preparing drivers for BEV thermal events, hybrid system fault scenarios, and the unique dynamics of any make or model ZEB. Every simulator comes with a pre-installed library of fully customizable simulation scenarios, as well as all the tools and support you need to create entirely new and unique training scenarios.

Ready to discuss details of our MB 2000 or other simulators now? Contact us to talk about how our transit experts can ease the ZEB transition for your agency.