Bartłomiej Kras, CEO & President
After capturing a small but growing share of the passenger-car market, the electric vehicles (EV) industry is now setting its sights on battery-powered electric buses (BEBs). With cities such as Zurich and Moscow pledging long-term transition to BEBs, and several other European towns experimenting with the technology, Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently forecasted that 84 percent of municipal buses in the U.S. will transform to electric by the year 2030. This transition from diesel buses is hampered by challenges such as high costs, aligning range with the route, the need to install charge points across the city, and other mechanical malfunctions. However, the manufacturers of BEBs—who are historically accustomed to combustion engine vehicles—lack the know-how to navigate said challenges. “They (BEB and electric truck manufacturers) inquire about batteries and intricacies of technologies but are unable to define their requirements. As of now, they don’t have the business model which provisions for the need to create a charging infrastructure at the construction site. They are yet to build the environment around the new technology,” says Bartłomiej Kras, president of Impact Clean Power Technology S.A. (ICPT S.A.)—a leader in the production of battery systems for public transport and energy storage.
By laying emphasis on the inability of BEB manufacturers to “define their requirements,” Kras is referring to factors that determine the charging infrastructure of an EV—starting from a variant of cell, charging mode, thermal system, charge port, power electronics controller, and more. This is why ICPT S.A. doesn’t compromise on the process of engaging with manufacturers and end-users before designing a specific battery system/ solution. “Unlike with passenger EVs, cost-of-ownership is a huge challenge for EV commercial vehicles since they need a battery system that can efficiently last over 10 years.
Our approach is to create the entire value chain for the product— everything around the battery and thermal management, and implementation of the software. We are not selling just hardware, but compute systems—implementing software and algorithms around the battery system to craft the perfect product,” explains Kras, a specialist in designing and implementing Li-ion battery systems, and a 14-year veteran in the e-mobility industry.
The manufacturing process which follows the countless rounds of customer interaction and data exchange is “the easy part,” per Kras. With the aid of his team of 160 highly-specialised engineers and due cooperation from the finest academic centres in Poland, ICPT S.A. has manufactured and sold battery systems to customers in the US, Germany, Spain, Turkey, and Italy. While narrating a customer success story, Kras details a specific type of battery system that ICPT S.A. built for Solaris Bus & Coach—a Polish producer of public transport vehicles. The client wanted the battery system to be housed in a specific type of container that can serve three different areas of utility. “We embedded three different types of chemistries in the container—for overnight charging, opportunity charging, and heavy duty/high power log charging. We designed the product with uniform dimensions and interface to allow the client to use the battery systems across all their buses, which have a standardized body. Depending on the tender or customer, we are able to deliver totally different functionality inside the same pack,” says Kras.
We are not selling just hardware, but compute systems—implementing software and algorithms around the battery system to craft the perfect product
As the world prepares the transition to zero-emission vehicles, ICPT S.A. has ambitious plans to lead the charge for public transport and commercial vehicles. On a mission “to facilitate e-mobility,” ICPT S.A. will continue to keep tabs on the latest technologies and advancements in the development of Li-ion batteries. “There are only a few hundred electric heavy-duty buses and trucks being produced (in Europe). We expect those numbers to boom quickly into the hundreds of thousands, like in China,” concludes Kras.