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Rider's Almanac Blog


Responsibly evolving towards electric buses

| Wednesday, March 10, 2021 5:59:00 PM

With each responsible step forward, Metro Transit continues to learn more about electric buses while maintaining reliable daily operations across the region.

“We’re proud to be earlier adopters of electric bus technology with our C Line 60’ electric bus pilot,” General Manager Kooistra said. “Our pilot project and the electric bus demonstrations of transit providers across the nation are critical to informing and advancing this new technology.”

On March 10, Kooistra provided an update to the Metropolitan Council, on Metro Transit’s Electric Bus Pilot Program. Currently, Metro Transit is piloting the use of eight battery electric buses on METRO C Line, along with six diesel buses.

“We are experiencing some important benefits from battery electric buses,” Deputy Chief of Operations – Bus Brian Funk said. “They have fewer harmful emissions compared to diesel buses, and they provide a smooth, quiet ride. However, the range and reliability issues we are experiencing through our pilot demonstrate that this technology is still developing.”

In Kooistra’s update, he reviewed Metro Transit’s Electric Bus Pilot Program experience, including how continued reliability issues are limiting bus range and, therefore, limiting Metro Transit’s ability to expand the use of 60-foot battery electric buses to other routes. Charging infrastructure continues to be unreliable, which has resulted in electric buses being taken out of service until the chargers can be repaired or replaced.

Kooistra also provided context for Metro Transit’s proposed 60-foot bus procurement under the Council’s consideration. On Feb. 22, the Metropolitan Council Transportation Committee recommended a contract to buy 143 new 60-foot diesel buses from New Flyer for up to $121 million. As part of operational planning, Metro Transit refreshes the fleet with new vehicles as others age. The proposed procurement would also secure the buses needed for the future Orange Line, D Line, and B Line.

While the current Electric Bus Pilot Project has revealed numerous challenges with electric bus technology, Metro Transit is committed to a long-term plan of electrification, including preparing an application with the Federal Transit Administration to help buy more 40-foot electric buses.

“We still believe that electric bus is the clean energy technology of our future,” Kooistra said.  “We remain committed to doing our part to advance this technology by asking ourselves how we can most effectively invest our limited resources in the most promising electric bus technology moving forward."