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Butte County, Calif., Begins Transition to E-Buses

The Butte County Association of Governments has approved its annual budget for transit, which includes the purchase of four electric buses that are estimated to be on the road by the end of 2025.

(TNS) — Time is ticking to transition transit to zero emissions.

The Butte County Association of Governments approved its annual budget for transit, which includes the purchase of four electric buses that are estimated to be on the road by the end of 2025.

Deputy Director and Project Manager Andy Newsum said the bus purchases will be a first step towards a full transition away from combustion-powered vehicles to zero-emission vehicles. And with the new buses, a great deal of different considerations for the transit agency on how it will implement new technology and equipment required for electric vehicles.

"We have to be careful about how we transition to a zero-emission fleet to meet a goal, and still deliver services," Newsum said.

BCAG operates Butte Regional Transit, also known as the B-Line, which currently has about 30 full-sized buses running regular routes throughout Butte County. The BCAG board approved the plan April 27.

Newsum said the main drive to transition to electric buses comes from a set of regulations called Innovative Clean Transit, passed in December 2018 by the California Air Resources Board.

Two major milestones are on track to be met by Butte Regional Transit, set by the state transit regulations.

Beginning January 2026, 25% of all public transit vehicles purchased by Butte Regional Transit must be zero-emission, electric-powered or run by other means. Hydrogen-powered motors contend as a close second, Newsum said.

By January 2029, all new transit vehicle purchases must be zero-emissions, though transit agencies will still be able to operate combustion engine vehicles until 2040 — the year all transit fleets are required to be fully converted to 100% zero-emission vehicles.

"It's kind of our first step into zero emissions," Newsum said. "And the main reason why we're going electric is because that's mostly what people are doing; that doesn't mean it's good, but that's mostly what people are doing, and it's the easiest thing for us to try to step forward and accomplish for our first step."


Newsum said there are considerations with electric buses compared to traditional ones, including limited range and electrical upgrades that need to be installed in order to charge the buses.

Senior Planner Sara Cain said the four electric buses planned to be purchased have a 12-year lifespan, will each seat 38 passengers and will take about two years to produce. Each bus is estimated to cost up to $1 million each and charging stations about $200,000 each, Cain said.

Depending on the manufacturer, the buses are rated to range around 200 miles — which Newsum says will be adequate for county needs, even if extreme heat and cold conditions reduce battery performance to around a 150-mile range. The buses however won't be capable of traveling up to Paradise, he said.

"For us that might work out OK because that's about the mileage of a daily route. If a bus leaves here in the morning and comes back at night, it puts on about 150 miles in a day," Newsum said.

The four buses will likely have routes strictly in Chico, Cain said, where they will be near the county transit center in case of maintenance needs.

Newsum said between now and when the buses are set to arrive at the end of 2025, the transit agency is working to get its electrical upgrades in place.

While the buses will mostly be paid for by grants, Newsum said there is a lack of resources in terms of specialized personnel who can implement the work.

"Our goal is to try to have all that in place and understand how it works, how it needs to be repaired if need be, before the buses come," Newsum said.

As the transit agency prepares for electric buses, traditional combustion-engine vehicles will still be in use because of reliability and in case of evacuation assistance for major events, Newsum said.

Butte Regional Transit is also working on a draft routing study, which proposes the use of microtransit to replace some regular routes that are reporting less frequent usage. It's available to see at

A public workshop will be held 5 p.m. Tuesday on the Zoom video platform to discuss the draft document and proposed changes to B-Line routes. Registration to the event can be found at

©2023 Chico Enterprise-Record, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.