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Electric Buses

Electric buses at Metro Transit

Metro Transit has been responsibly moving to greener operations since 2002 as one of the first adopters of hybrid-electric buses. We committed to an even more sustainable future when we ordered our first 60-foot electric buses to pilot on the METRO C Line, partially funded through a $1.75 million Federal Transit Administration Low/No Emission Grant. 

The METRO C Line opened on June 8, 2019. Between launch and early 2021, we have experienced ongoing challenges with the electric buses and chargers. In embarking on this pilot, we expected the new technology would require additional effort, and this technology does present performance and reliability issues. Due to these issues, the METRO C Line has had to rely more heavily on diesel buses than originally planned.
Electric buses by the numbers Vehicles Manufacturer: New Flyer of North America, St. Cloud Fleet size: 8 60-foot “articulated” buses Range: <100 miles Cost: $570,000 more than a diesel bus ($870,000), not including charging equipment Top speed: 65 mph 5 onboard 466 kWh batteries  Diesel-fired auxiliary heater to preserve range in cold weather Infrastructure 8 gas-pump style overnight chargers at Heywood Garage 2 rapid overhead chargers capable of 12-minute booster charges Performance 40% range reduction in cold temperatures Chargers have been unreliable, causing service delays In 2020, diesel buses were available 88% of the time; electrics 75% Strong partnership with Xcel Energy to power the electrics, including using renewable energy for overnight charging

Still learning

Sixty-foot battery electric buses and charging infrastructure are developing technologies, and we know that technology is still improving.

Metro Transit is not alone in the testing of new electric buses, and we are proud to be among the early adopters of electric bus because these pilot projects are an important learning step in the development of this technology. And we believe electric buses are the long-term future of our bus fleet. 

According to the American Public Transportation Association, several transit systems are testing the use of electric buses in their fleets. The largest number of electric buses in use in 2020 (36 buses) was in Denver, with other metro areas experimenting with or ordering electric buses for future implementation. Northern metro areas are growing this segment of their fleets cautiously, due to diminished range performance in cold temperatures (see Boston’s MBTA).

Metro Transit remains committed to adding more electric buses. The upfront costs of electric buses are significantly greater than for diesel buses, so it is important that we focus available electric bus funding on buses and routes that provide the best opportunity for success and public benefit. The purpose of a pilot is to inform these decisions, and based on our pilot experience, the expansion of the 60-foot electric bus program at this time does not offer us this best opportunity to succeed. We are focused on pursuing better options.

Plans will evolve

Despite the challenges we are experiencing with our ongoing 60-foot electric bus pilot, we continue to take steps to ensure electric buses are part of our future. This includes pursuing funding and opportunities to pilot 40-foot electric buses. More than two-thirds of Metro Transit’s bus fleet is made up of 40-foot buses. Many of these buses are assigned to local routes, meaning that future electric buses on these routes would offer the greatest benefit to the most people. Additionally, we are building our new Minneapolis Bus Garage to accommodate electric buses in the future.   

Metro Transit awarded $4.2 million for electric buses
Recently, Metro Transit was awarded almost $4.2 million from a Low- or No-Emissions grant, a Federal Transit Administration program which can help transit agencies procure electric buses and support infrastructure. With this funding, Metro Transit will purchase 8 electric buses from grant application partner Proterra. Transit chose them after reviewing their 40-foot electric bus. This garage-charged bus has a large battery capacity, which allows for long-range deployment without the need for additional charging during service.

Electric buses by the numbers

C Line Electric Bus

More on electric buses:

Read more about how we're evolving on Riders Almanac

View the 3/10 Metropolitan Council presentation by Metro Transit General Manager Wes Kooistra
Electric bus presentation begins at 55:15