North Carolina Community Gets Its First All-Electric Bus

The Greensboro Transit Authority put its first zero-pollution electric bus into service Thursday. The new $800,000 rechargeable transit vehicle is the first of 10 planned for the fleet.

by Taft Wireback News & Record / February 1, 2019
Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

(TNS) — The Gate City became North Carolina’s first community Thursday to put an all-electric, battery powered bus into daily passenger service.

Greensboro Transit Authority launched the sleek, $800,000 rechargeable vehicle about 10 a.m. on the Friendly Avenue route that circulates between downtown and the Guilford College area.

GTA expects to have 10 of the quiet-running, zero air-polluting buses in its fleet by the end of next month, said Adam Fischer, the city’s director of transportation.

The new bus purrs where GTA’s diesel-powered fleet emits guttural rumbles and intermittent belches of exhaust. But those environmental pluses are not the driving force behind the transit authority’s enthusiasm for going rechargeable, Fischer said.

“The real reason we started looking seriously at these electric buses was because of our aging fleet and the high cost of maintaining and operating it,” he said of GTA’s diesel-powered buses.

Even though a battery-powered bus carries a price tag about $300,000 more than its diesel or hybrid counterpart, Fisher said transportation planners estimate the city will save about $30,000 per year on each rechargeable bus.

That equates to about $350,000 per bus in lower fuel and maintenance costs during its useful life, GTA estimates.

City officials plan eventually to convert the authority’s entire fleet that currently includes 53 full-size buses. Voters approved $4.5 million in a 2016 bond referendum to provide sufficient matching funds to buy the first 30 electric buses.

The federal government covers most of the cost for buses used in public transportation, with city and state governments each contributing smaller percentages.

GTA recharges the all-electric bus overnight at its maintenance garage, emerging with enough power to travel somewhere between 170 and 200 miles.

Fischer said the city soon will activate a “quick charger” at the Depot on East Washington Street to give the growing electric fleet occasional, eight-minute reboots so the battery powered buses can remain in service throughout the day.

Electric buses also get occasional boosts in power from their “regenerative” brakes that tap into the energy created by the stopping process and redirect it to the battery.

Among transit agencies statewide, Asheville also is incorporating all-electric buses into its fleet, GTA officials said Thursday. But it has not put any into regular, daily rotation yet, they said.

The new bus also has been built with passengers in mind. It includes moon roofing and a rear window missing in other GTA buses to give the ride a more open-air feel.

Under the padded seats, passengers also can take advantage of USB ports to charge smartphones and other mobile devices.

Manufactured domestically by a company based in Greenville, S.C., the new bus also is designed to accommodate riders who have disabilities with such features as a loading ramp, wheelchair tie downs and “kneeling” technology that lowers the front part of the bus so the first step aboard is easier to navigate.

Fischer said GTA already has a second, all-electric bus ready to start making the rounds and expects to receive three more in the next week or so.

©2019 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.