Universal Studios Hollywood using electric vehicles for studio tour trams

Posted Thursday, April 14, 2022 5:09 PM | Contributed by Jeff

From the press release:

Universal Studios Hollywood debuts the first four electric trams in its fleet of 21 Studio Tour trams. Weather and feature anchor of NBC’s TODAY and Co-host, 3rd Hour of TODAY, Al Roker is featured in a video introduction aboard the trams as part of the guest experience.

“I am extremely proud of this innovative undertaking and our commitment to creating a zero-emissions Studio Tour fleet in collaboration with our parent company and local partners,” said Scott Strobl, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Universal Studios Hollywood. “This is just one of many steps we are taking to transform our business in line with Comcast NBCUniversal’s carbon neutral goal, all while pioneering first-class attractions for our guests.”

The world-famous, behind-the-scenes Studio Tour is a hallmark Universal Studios Hollywood attraction that, for over 55 years, has taken millions of guests from around the world through authentic movie and television production studios, featuring iconic sets made famous in blockbuster movies such as “Back to the Future” and dynamic rides such as “Fast & Furious—Supercharged” and “King Kong 360 3-D.”

“The Universal Studio Tour has always been a groundbreaking attraction with lots of thrills, excitement and scary moments. I’m honored to be part of an experience for adults and children to learn about these best-in-class electric trams that will transport them around this iconic studio lot and help the environment,” said Al Roker.

The conversion to electric trams was spearheaded in 2017 by visionaries within the Universal Studios Hollywood technical services department and represents some of the first-ever and largest battery-powered, off-road, high-torque and low speed mass people movers in the U.S.

Full conversion of the 21 trams from diesel-hydraulic engines to electric will help reduce carbon emissions as well as improve the guest experience by reducing noise associated with the diesel-hydraulic engine.

Installation of inductive charging technology from WAVE (Wireless Advanced Vehicle Electrification) by Ideanomics was a critical factor in the conversion designed to meet the trams’ rigorous daily demands of navigating the Studio’s varying topography. Trams will routinely charge during the normal operation at the start and end of the attraction route. Coupled with a regenerative braking feature, the trams will continue to build up charge when they travel downhill, providing added energy efficiency.

The elaborate clean air conversion design process evolved from a collaboration between Universal Studios Hollywood and L.A.-based Complete Coach Works to reimagine the trams from diesel-hydraulic engines to electric.

The project continues to be made possible by a grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District — the local regulatory agency that works to reduce air pollution in the region — which provides funding to replace older equipment with cleaner ones that are cost-effective while reducing air pollution. It was also supported by a significant investment from Comcast NBCUniversal and Southern California Edison through its Charge Ready Transport Program.

“It is truly so exciting to see initiatives like Universal Studios Hollywood’s new fleet of electric Studio Tour trams come to fruition — initiatives that show our public and private entities working together to do our part to combat air quality and climate change,” said L.A. Councilmember Nithya Raman. “As a new member of the South Coast Air Quality Management Board, I am looking to broaden these types of collaborations and accelerate the positive impacts they will have for our region and world. Our climate crisis demands we do this.”

Thursday, April 14, 2022 5:12 PM
Jeff's avatar

This brings me joy. If Disney isn't already working this out for the parking lot fleet I'll be really disappointed. They've been doing electric transportation since the day they opened in Florida.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Thursday, April 14, 2022 5:31 PM

Never thought of this but I’m a bit surprised this wasn’t done already. Seems like a no brainer for the application.

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Thursday, April 14, 2022 7:38 PM

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of sitting in the back of the first or front of the second coach in the tram should have thought of this years ago. The lead coach is arguably the best place to sit for seeing the show, but the down side is having to hear the deafening roar of the diesel engine for 45 minutes.

The difficulty is that the vehicles are enormous which means that they have lots of weight to carry around and so would need lots of power. And they have to be able to run all day, every day, open to close. But batteries can be put beneath the floor of every car to increase range, and there are multiple locations along the route where charging can happen: at each of the attraction points, in particular in the Earthquake and Kong scenes, to a lesser degree in the Fast & Furious scene, where the vehicle stops for a bit for the show. And why not have multiple charge points, since there are multiple vehicles?

Conected power can't be used because mostly because the route is not fixed, although much of it is consistent...plus a catenary would be just plain ugly and could interfere with studio operations. The tram roads are accessible to personnel, so any kind of bus-bar on the road would be dangerous. But why not provide buried inductive power on the roads where the trams operate most frequently (or exclusively)? It seems to me that the vehicles could be set up to operate largely on fixed power, with onboard batteries almost as a back-up more than a primary power supply.

Given some of the grades on that lot, I wonder if the trailers are motor driven as well. It works for trains, I wonder if it would work for multi-car road vehicles.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.
Who wonders when Disneyland is going to replace its parking lot trams with something more like a PeopleMover, or other automated fixed-guideway system...


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Friday, April 15, 2022 11:44 AM

Electric may be next but I would be surprised if it is anytime soon. They just converted the WDW trams from CNG to Propane about 4-5 years ago.

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Friday, April 15, 2022 2:17 PM
Jeff's avatar

The WDW trams are actually modified airplane pushers. I forget where I saw that, maybe the official parks blog. Considering Disney is building even more solar, I think low carbon energy is a priority.

RideMan said:

But why not provide buried inductive power on the roads where the trams operate most frequently (or exclusively)?

Isn't that what the press release says they're doing?


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Friday, April 15, 2022 2:46 PM

Florida State has an all electric bus system. There are overhead charging stations at stops. While they stop to board passengers they can partially recharge...so they have continuous opportunities to do so.

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Friday, April 15, 2022 6:31 PM

The article mentioned charging at the loading and unloading stations, and using regenerative braking (meaning significant charging for the first five minutes of the trip...I've ridden roller coasters that are not as steep nor as long as the first drop on the USH Tram Tour!) but nothing about charging during show scenes or inductive charging along the route. For this reason I would not be surprised to learn that "charging in the loading area" means hooking a long extension cord to the right-hand side of the lead car.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


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Friday, April 15, 2022 8:48 PM
Jeff's avatar

It does say they use inductive charging, it just doesn't say where. I imagine they could put it anywhere it stops. And depending on battery capacity, you don't have to fully charge it, you only have to recover enough to get through the day. This is the thing that people often don't understand about road tripping an EV as well. People get hung up on charge time, but the fastest possible charging happens in the mid-range of capacity. You only need to charge enough to get to the next stop.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Friday, April 15, 2022 11:08 PM

I did read the article, I promise, but it was a couple of days ago.

With an operation like this, though, charging time...or alternatively, the charge capacity...needs to be enough to last all day, allowing for frequent charging. I'm guessing that even with mid-course charging and regenerative braking, on any given ride cycle they're going to use more power than they can put back in at normal stopping points. But as you point out, that's OK so long as you don't run out before the last ride of the day...and they can charge overnight and top-up throughout the day.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____
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