Taipei, Oct. 21 (CNA) Changhua County plans to introduce driverless buses next year running to and from the high speed rail station and Qizhou Park, with the system powered exclusively by wind and solar energy, county magistrate Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷) said earlier this week.
A 9km dedicated bus lane will connect the station to the park, where the county's annual flower festival is held, to accommodate electric buses made by France's EasyMile which carry 12 passengers per trip, Wei said.
The system is particularly noteworthy because both the fleet of buses and bus stations will be powered by green energy, an achievement of which the central Taiwan county is rightly proud, he said.
"Changhua is home to world-class green energy and this project will perfectly demonstrate the integration of green energy and smart vehicles," Wei said.
The idea is to use off-shore wind and solar energy to power the fleet made up of 20 EasyMile buses, which can travel at speeds of up to 40kph, Wei explained.
The system will be operated under a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) approach, which means electricity flows between car batteries and the electricity distribution network, depending on supply and demand.
In other words, the buses provide additional power to the electricity grid in response to peak load demand and can then be recharged during off-peak hours, said Martin Ting (丁彥允), president of 7Starlake Co., effectively the Taiwan agent of the French company.
This model not only promotes more efficient use of renewable energy but also helps stabilize the power grid, Ting said.
The project will cost roughly NT$30 million (US$991,557) and take about 10 months to complete, he added.
If the program is well-received, he said, the county and the company could consider running the smart buses between Changhua's High Speed Rail station and Taiwan Railways Administration's Tianzhong Station, a distance of 3.6km.
Ting said his company is in the final stages of another joint venture with EasyMile, for which he hopes more than half the components will be made in Taiwan.
"We expect to start deploying business vehicles next year (in Taiwan)," Jean-Marc Desvaux, head of Business Initiatives APAC at EasyMile, told CNA.
Ting said the joint venture could result in the mass production of driverless cars by 2019, providing both a bus model for Taiwan, likely a 25-seat vehicle, and cars EasyMile is looking to export to other countries in the region.
Demonstration rides on EasyMile buses, will be conducted from Oct. 25-29 in Changhua near the high speed rail station, and will be available free of charge to members of the public in an effort to promote the county's green vision of the future.