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Washington’s Link Transit Board OKs Electric Bus Negotiations

The Link Transit board of directors last month authorized contract negotiations with a Netherlands-based electric bus manufacturer for 10 new buses. The vehicles are expected to cost around $7.95 million.

(TNS) — The Link Transit board of directors last month authorized its general manager to negotiate a contract with a European-based electric bus manufacturer for up to 10 battery-electric buses.

Richard DeRock, general manager, and several members of the board made a trip in 2022 to Deurne, Netherlands where Ebusco, the Dutch-based electric bus manufacturer, is located.

The proposal from Ebusco is for 10 12-meter transit buses at $710,000 each, totaling about $4.47 million for a minimum order of six buses or $7.95 million for 10 vehicles, according to a staff report in the Link Transit's board packet for December.

The total price includes shipping, plug-in chargers and any applicable sales tax.

"I walked away with a very favorable impression of the Ebusco coaches," said Dan Straub, Douglas County commissioner, during the Dec. 20 meeting. "Looking at the value proposition, I think it's extremely strong. And I really do think that this is something that we need to give a serious, serious look."

Link Transit staff estimates savings of over $300,000 annually in energy costs by converting the Chelan/ Manson route, currently a diesel-powered route, to electric. The change would result in $3.6 million to $3.9 million in savings over the 12 to 13 years life of a bus, according to the staff report.

"The calculations we've run say that not only do you dramatically cut your operating costs because of the electric being so much cheaper," DeRock said. "But if the batteries last 12 years, they cover the cost of the bus. That's an astounding statement."

It is more likely the batteries would last six years but Link Transit would still save money in operating expenses for the fuel.

The Build Your Dreams (BYD) electric buses — an American electric bus manufacturer based in California — use about 1.8 kilowatts of electricity per mile traveled, which is "pretty good," said DeRock at the December meeting.

The Ebusco buses use an estimated 1 kilowatt per mile traveled. The Ebusco weighs 14,000 pounds less than the BYD buses because of bus' carbon fiber construction despite seating more people than the BYD bus, DeRock said.

The "battery management system" is also "better" compared to Link Transit's BYD electric bus, he said. DeRock clarified that Link Transit's BYD electric bus fleet "is really good," and the comparison is not meant to disparage BYD's buses.

If Link Transit went ahead with the Ebusco purchase of 10 vehicles, by 2024 Link Transit would no longer operate diesel buses on any of the fixed routes, but DeRock clarified to the board that the 12 diesel buses they purchased in 2018 will still last five or six more years.

One concern, however, is the battery which is cooled by the air rather than liquid. The Wenatchee Valley has experienced temperatures near or at 45 C, or 113 Fahrenheit, which is at the upper limit of its capacity.

"(Link Transit's) concern is that we have periods where the air temperature reaches 45 C, and if ambient temperatures is 45 C, we only have a cushion of 5 degrees before the batteries could be damaged," according to the staff report.

The cold would likely not be an issue due to the battery's software management, DeRock said.

In conversations with Ebusco, the manufacturer said they would be open to a performance contract to ensure that Ebusco delivers a battery that will work in both hot and cold climates the area experiences, according to DeRock.

One board member expressed their concern that Link Transit was rushing into this deal too quickly and there's still too many unknowns at this time.

The board authorized DeRock negotiate with Ebusco concerning the purchase of up to 10 electric buses. The approval was not unanimous receiving one dissenting vote.

DeRock said he may have a contract ready to propose to the board for final action at the January monthly meeting.

©2023 The Wenatchee World, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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