May 11

Using Remote Diagnostics for Electric Buses

Vehicle breakdowns while on route cost transit operators significant time and money. Route disruptions and delays are bad for passengers. Additionally, they hurt their trust in a reliable transit system. A roadside breakdown can be a safety issue for drivers and passengers, depending on the breakdown location. To get the vehicle back in service as fast as possible the transit operator must send repair technicians out quickly, with the right materials. However, a considerable number of issues can be resolved quickly or prevented altogether with a remote diagnostic system, before sending a technician.

To make it easier to compare the advantages and disadvantages, we have spelled it out below based on our experience here at ViriCiti.  Take a look at the comparison between solving an issue without a remote diagnostic system and with a remote diagnostic system. 

Without a Remote Diagnostic System

Without a remote diagnostic system, the response process takes significant time. Below are the steps that are generally followed in case of a breakdown without a remote diagnostic system: 

without a remote diagnostic system
  1. The driver identifies the issue and moves the vehicle to a safe location as quickly as possible. Dispatch is called by the driver.
  2. Dispatch gets as much information as possible from the driver, then proceeds to call maintenance. 
  3. The maintenance team informs a technician where to go based on the information from dispatch.
  4. The repair and diagnostic tools are packed up by the technician, who drives out to the vehicle.
  5. The technician begins diagnosis, as operations determine whether to swap in another vehicle for the passengers.
  6. The repairs are completed by the technician on-site, if possible.
  7. If the situation is severe, or onsite diagnosis is not possible, maintenance then calls a tow truck for the vehicle. Operations swaps in another vehicle to pick up driver and passengers, and continue the route.

This process involves a lot of uncertainty for both operations and maintenance to manage. Additionally, it relies heavily on feedback from the driver and repair technician, who are both in a stressful situation with the problem vehicle. 

The maintenance group has no way to start the diagnosis until they are already on site with the vehicle, driver, and passengers. If the maintenance team receives incorrect information, they may go to the wrong location or might not bring the tools needed. Even worse, operations must wait for someone to arrive on-site before knowing if a tow is truly needed, possibly with the vehicle still blocking traffic. The response process without a remote diagnostic system can be complicated and communication can get convoluted with so many moving parts. 

With A Remote Diagnostics System

With remote diagnostics, the response process is much faster. The steps with a remote diagnostic system are as follows: 

with remote diagnostics for electric buses the response is much faster
  1. The driver identifies the issue, and moves the vehicle to a safe location as soon as possible, and calls into dispatch.
  2. Dispatch gets as much information as possible from the driver, and checks the online diagnostic system remotely for vehicle location, then calls maintenance.
  3. Maintenance starts the diagnosis remotely by checking the diagnostic system for faults & codes and checks the status of key components based on the driver’s feedback. Then maintenance either provides the information to the technician for onsite repairs or informs dispatch that a tow is required.
  4. The repair technician goes out with repair tools to fix the issue, or operations call a tow truck.

As you can see, this process allows the transit operator to assess the repair without wasting time, and to call a tow quickly and only when it’s really needed. 

It’s clear that a remote diagnostic system can save operators time and money while minimizing the hassle of a breakdown if it does occur.

Prevention with Remote Diagnostics 

prevention of breakdowns with remote diagnostics

Remote diagnostic systems can even go one step further, and prevent these breakdowns in the first place

Using a tool such as ViriCiti, the operator can set up alerts for dispatch and maintenance to trigger when certain situations occur that need attention. These triggers allow the group to plan repairs when the vehicle is out of service, lowering service disruptions and cost. 

Some examples of these triggers for fuel vehicles are alerts when an engine approaches overheating or experiences a temperature spike, or when an after-treatment system approaches the soot limit for active regen. On an electric vehicle, an example is a high voltage battery imbalance. These alerts also apply to systems present on most transit vehicles, like sensing low coolant, a stuck door sensor triggering the interlock, or low voltage on the 12/24 battery. The maintenance team could be alerted to any of these examples before the service interruption occurs.

The final level of service preparedness involves roll out at the beginning of each day. Remote diagnostic systems can provide fluid and charge levels for problem vehicles, allowing the team to focus on the vehicles that need attention each day and lowering their manual checks burden.

Characteristics of an Excellent Remote Diagnostic System

So what qualities should you look for in a quality remote diagnostic system? Based on the experience and expertise we have accumulated in the past 8 years of working with over 200 transit operators and bus manufacturers we came up with the list below:  

  • A system which works across all vehicles, so different systems aren’t required for separate OEMs or drive technologies, an “all-in-one” solution
  • Allows easy access for many members and teams within the transit organization 
  • Real-time location data 
  • Provides alerts both within the diagnostic system (on the screen) and outside of the system (email or phone)

Are you looking for a  Remote Diagnostic System for your buses

ViriCiti combines the newest internet technologies with electric vehicle knowledge to accelerate the adoption of commercial electric transportation on a global scale. 

remote diagnostics for electric buses

About The Author

We are the ViriCiti marketing team. A group of EV enthusiasts writing about the most important aspects of operating electric fleets. From monitoring to smart charging.