A Florida-based startup called Ecolution Power Company is on a mission to gild the electric truck lily with kinetic energy storage, and the city of Amarillo, Texas, is one of two US locations in which it is putting the idea to the test. If all goes according to plan, waste energy from trucks, buses, subways, and railways cars could be stored and transported to locations where it’s needed, instead of being lost to the winds.
An Energy Storage Feature In Every Truck, Bus, & Rail Car
Ecolution is new to the CleanTechnica radar, but it was noticed by our friends over at Fast Company last year, who gave the firm an honorable mention in their list of world-changing ideas.
The company has come up with an energy storage twist on the familiar field of regenerative braking. For those of you new to the topic, regenerative braking refers to systems that capture the kinetic energy that occurs when brakes are applied to a moving vehicle. Instead of allowing the energy to dissipate, regenerative systems transfer that energy into an electrical current.
Electric vehicles are a perfect match for regenerative systems, since all that captured electricity can go back into the EV battery.
That still leaves the question of what to do with any excess electricity left over, and Ecolution has the answer.
The company’s Module Active Response System (MARS) stores excess kinetic energy from heavy duty trucks and other large vehicles, which presumably rack up more kilowatts than passenger cars. The system is designed for diesel and other non-electric vehicles as well. So, now you have a rolling energy storage unit, which can be used to power refrigerator units and other auxiliary systems on the vehicle, which might otherwise be idling on diesel fuel to keep its systems running.
Aside from servicing on-board systems, the MARS technology is also designed to be plugged into a stationary energy storage unit at key locations, like a rail yards or remote EV charging stations, or it can be plugged into the grid.
“The MARS Trailer attaches to a heavy-duty vehicle, generating and storing energy as the vehicle moves — energy which can be used for a variety of uses,” the company explains. “Simply put, the MARS Trailer is a mobile kinetic power plant, supplying on-demand energy that is sustainable, environmentally friendly, affordable and reliable.”
To ice the green cake, the MARS system could deploy second-life EV batteries that are no longer fit for running a drive train.
If all of this sounds familiar, you may be thinking of the notorious electric truck hydropower proposal, which suddenly doesn’t seem so far fetched after all. The idea of capturing kinetic energy from braking has come a long way since its application to passenger cars. The Ecolution system is one example of the growth in scale that has emerged in recent months, such as the “Infinity Train” launched by mining giant Fortescue in Australia.
Elevators in high-rise buildings are another area of interest for regenerative braking fans, so stay tuned for more on that.
Putting Kinetic Energy Storage To The Test
The regenerative braking platform sounds simple enough, but the devil is in the details. Ecolution is still in the prototype stage, with projects in Europe and Latin America as well as the US.
Before we get to the Amarillo project, let’s back up a step and take a look at another US project announced by Ecolution in December 2021 as a joint venture with the firm Levo Mobility, to be located in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Twin Cities area, which is apparently the first site to follow a proof-of-concept workout in Greenville, South Carolina.
At the time of the announcement, Ecolution had formed a non-binding agreement for up to $30 million of capital from Levo, aimed at purchasing electric buses for the St. Paul project, where a potential fleet of up to 6,000 school, municipal, and mass transit buses is a ripe field for kinetic energy storage.
For those of you keeping track of financing, Ecolution is backed by Brown Venture Group, which focuses on Black, Latino, and Indigenous technology startups. Brown seeded Ecolution in 2020. Of note, last December Brown received an undisclosed amount of equity funding from Bank of America.
Levo is a joint venture formed by the leading global firm Nuvve Holding Corp., the investment group Stonepeak Partners, and Evolve Transition Infrastructure, a company is known for its turnkey EV charging infrastructure services including Nuvve’s vehicle-to-grid technology.
Amarillo, Texas, Will Give It A Try
While all that is happening, policy makers in Amarillo caught wind of the technology and decided to give it a spin. On June 15, Ecolution announced that it is partnering with the city to deliver its kinetic energy storage system, reportedly to start with a solid waste hauling truck.
As reported by My High Plains on June 7, City Manager Rich Gagnon anticipates that the kinetic energy storage system will be a perfect fit for the city’s waste hauling operations. The stored energy could then be used to charge electric vehicles in the city’s fleet.
“Dumpsters collect trash and they take it to a transfer station where it is sorted and then it is put on a semi and then driven 16 miles and then they drive 16 miles back. So we have seven trucks, every day making that round trip, that could be making power that could then be used to power the very vehicles that we use across the city,” he explained.
Amarillo is also a railway hub, so if the truck system works out they could test the rail application as well.
Other local news organizations also scooped the announcement back in May when it was presented to the city council, taking note of the potential for shaving down the city’s $2 million-per-year fuel bill without incurring up-front costs. If all goes according to plan, Ecolution will also deliver energy storage buses to be leased by the city.
Who Does Energy Better, Amarillo Or Austin?
Based on the local reporting, it sure looks like Amarillo is determined to break out from the urban innovation pack and peel business away from other clean tech centers.
They have some catching up to do, but they could ride the coat-tails of their local utility, the sprawling firm Xcel, which has been doing some catch-up itself on the clean energy front.
In related news of interest to the both Ecolution and Amarillo, Xcel is adding all-electric bucket trucks to its fleet for a months-long test period, towards a planned transition to at least 30% electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks in its fleet by 2030.
As of this writing the trucks will be tested in Xcel territory in Minnesota and Colorado, but Ecolution is reportedly meeting with Xcel to present its kinetic energy storage system for grid application, so it’s possible that an electric bucket truck could be heading to Texas as well.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Image: Kinetic energy storage for truck courtesy of Ecolution Power Company.
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