The Tindo solar battery-charged bus (“Tindo”, Kaurna word for sun) is an experimental battery electric vehicle that operates in Adelaide, Australia. It is the world’s first solar bus, operating since 2007. It uses 100% solar power, is equipped with a regenerative braking system and air conditioning and can carry up to 40 persons, 25 of whom are seated. The bus itself is not equipped with solar panels. It receives electric power from a photovoltaic system on Adelaide’s central bus station. Hailed as the world’s first bus service powered exclusively by solar power, the bus service connects Adelaide City and North Adelaide as part of Adelaide City’s sustainable transport agenda. The Tindo is part of the 98A and 98C bus service (until recently known as the Adelaide Connector) which is offered as free public transport.
The Adelaide City Council’s electric solar bus is the first in the world to be recharged using 100% solar energy, and will be used every day by the people of Adelaide through the Adelaide City Council’s free Adelaide Connector Bus service.
Tindo – the Kaurna Aboriginal name for sun – is the culmination of the Council’s eight-year project to deliver a pure electric community bus. International research suggests people strongly prefer electric buses to those powered by other means, such as diesel engines. Electric buses can operate in busy City streets and residential neighbourhoods in a clean and quiet manner, which makes them very popular with both passengers and the public.
Recent advances in battery technology have helped the successful development of pure electric buses with a suitable range between recharges. The Tindo solar electric bus uses 11 Zebra battery modules, giving it unprecedented energy storage capacity and operational range. The Swiss-made Zebra batteries use sodium/nickel chloride technology, with their benefits including:
- Designed for long life and reliability
- Not affected by external temperatures
- Can be stored indefinitely fully charged
- High energy and power density
The Zebra batteries used in Tindo are virtually maintenance free, and are therefore expected to result in significant cost savings. The unique battery management interface ensures that the batteries system can’t be damaged by inappropriate operation or charging protocols. Unlike other batteries available for electric buses, these controlled temperature batteries operate without loss of performance or life expectancy in virtually any conditions. In addition to conventional controls and instrumentation, a driver display panel is provided, from which the bus operator and maintenance staff can check the status of Tindo’s drive and charge.
Tindo is recharged using a unique solar photovoltaic (PV) system at the Adelaide Central Bus Station. The solar PV system on the Bus Station’s roof is currently Adelaide’s largest grid-connected system, generating almost 70,000 kilowatt hours of zero carbon emissions electricity each year to offset the total energy required to recharge Tindo’s batteries.
Much of the funding for this $550,000 solar PV system was generously provided by the Australian Government through the Adelaide Solar City program, with the Adelaide City Council also committing significant funding.
There are very few pure battery electric buses around the world. Most are characterised by being significantly smaller in size, and having shorter operational range. Tindo is the only pure electric bus recharged by 100% solar PV electricity. It’s important to note that Tindo would not be carbon neutral if it were recharged from the carbon-intensive South Australian electricity grid.