By Benton Graham
Following its record-setting $255 million purchase of 197 electric buses last year, the Capital Metro Board of Directors committed at its Sept. 26 meeting to spend $299.5 million on 157 more vehicles and their charging infrastructure over five years. The early returns on the agency’s electric bus investment have been positive. “They’re operating well under the hot conditions,” said Rob Borowski, Cap Metro’s sustainability officer, during the board meeting. “They seem to be exceeding our performance right now. We were looking at a 150-mile range, and they seem to be averaging more than that, but there’s still a lot of work to do as we get the new buses coming in.”
Of Cap Metro’s first dozen electric buses on the road now, six were made by Proterra (based in California) and the other six by New Flyer (based in Manitoba). Representatives from both suppliers, which will produce the nearly 200 vehicles approved last year, touted the quietness of electric buses compared to their diesel counterparts in the fleet, which includes about 400 vehicles. A Cap Metro spokesperson added that the buses do not produce as much heat.
Benefits of Electric Buses
But the primary push toward electrifying the fleet is the potential environmental benefit. That’s because electric buses won’t produce any tailpipe emissions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is responsible for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. “As we transition to a fully electric fleet, we can expect an annual savings of approximately 230,000 pounds of greenhouse gases and a reduction in air pollution,” a Cap Metro spokesperson said in an email.
Beyond the buses themselves, the electrification of the fleet has required significant investment in charging infrastructure. Cap Metro uses both plug-in chargers and overhead chargers, which use pantographs on the buses’ roofs at its garages. The agency also will install chargers at park-and-ride locations. That’s where the buses will be able to get some extra juice to stay on the road for long stretches.