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A trolleybus (also known as trolley bus, trolley coach, trackless trolley, trackless tram or trolley) is an electric bus that draws power from overhead wires (generally suspended from roadside posts) using spring-loaded trolley poles. Two wires and poles are required to complete the electrical circuit. This differs from a tram or streetcar, which normally uses the track as the return path, needing only one wire and one pole (or pantograph). They are also distinct from other kinds of electric buses, which usually rely on batteries. Power is most commonly supplied as 600-volt direct current, but there are exceptions.
Currently, around 300 trolleybus systems are in operation, in cities and towns in 43 countries. Altogether, more than 800 trolleybus systems have existed, but not more than about 400 concurrently.
Trolleybuses are uncommon today in North America, but they remain common in many European countries as well as Russia and China, generally occupying a position in usage between street railways (trams) and diesel buses. Worldwide, around 300 cities or metropolitan areas are served by trolleybuses today.
There are currently 300 cities or metropolitan areas where trolleybuses are operated, and more than 500 additional trolleybus systems have existed in the past. For an overview, by country, see Trolleybus usage by country, and for complete lists of trolleybus systems by location, with dates of opening and (where applicable) closure, see List of trolleybus systems and the related lists indexed there.
Of the systems existing as of 2012, the majority are located in Europe and Asia, including 85 in Russia and 43 in Ukraine. However, there are eight systems existing in North America and nine in South America.
Trolleybuses have been preserved in most of the countries where they have operated. The United Kingdom has the largest number of preserved trolleybuses with more than 110, while the United States has around 70. Most preserved vehicles are on static display only, but a few museums are equipped with a trolleybus line, allowing trolleybuses to operate for visitors. Museums with operational trolleybus routes include three in the UK – the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft, the East Anglia Transport Museum and the Black Country Living Museum – and three in the United States – the Illinois Railway Museum, the Seashore Trolley Museum and the Shore Line Trolley Museum – but operation of trolleybuses does not necessarily occur on a regular schedule of dates at these museums.
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