Image of Proterra bus

Transit operators are slow to adopt electric buses

With the exception of a few agencies, U.S. transit operators have been slow to adopt all-electric buses.

Only 300 electric vehicles are in service out of more than 65,000 overall, according to a report from Reuters. Concerns include high costs, limited range, and what many consider an unproven technology.

“People worry about being an early adopter. Remember 20 years ago someone paid $20,000 for a plasma TV and then 10 years later it was $900 at Best Buy,” said Chris Stoddart, senior vice president of engineering and customer service for bus manufacturer New Flyer Industries. “People just don’t want a science project.”

Others balk at the high capital costs.  A conventional diesel bus costs about $435,000 compared to $750,000 for an electric model.  Lower fuel and maintenance costs can offset this difference, but savings vary by locality. And some agencies have seen performance lag under extreme conditions — whether San Francisco hills, Phoenix summers, or New England winters.

Despite these concerns, some U.S. agencies are making the commitment to electric vehicles. BYD already has 165 vehicles on the road today, and Proterra has 126.  Foothill Transit (CA) has been using Proterra buses since 2010 — and the agency expects to go all-electric by 2030, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CA) has agreed to purchase up to 100 buses from New Flyer, and IndyGo (IN) will receive 31 vehicles from BYD.

As the technology improves and costs come down, more agencies are likely to make the switch.  But New Flyer CEO Paul Soubry predicts the change will come slowly. “It’s going to be a slow, methodical rather than an absolute disruption type environment,” he said. Link to full story from Reuters.

Image source: Proterra

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