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King County Metro putting Proterra electric buses into service

King County Metro Transit recently put its first Proterra battery-electric bus into service in Bellevue, Washington. The battery bus is the first of three that Metro will test this year. Metro will test the performance and efficiency of the new technology for up to a year on local streets and roads to determine whether battery-electric buses can be a future replacement option for its remaining diesel-powered coaches.

Metro’s three battery buses will operate on Bellevue routes 226 and 241, serving some of the county’s densest job centers, including the Microsoft Corporate Campus and downtown Bellevue. The routes, which also serve the Bellevue Transit Center, start and end at the Eastgate Park-and-Ride, where the battery charging station is located.

The 38-seat prototype buses have a composite body and can travel 23 miles or more between charges. Batteries take 10 minutes or less to fast charge. The prototype buses are expected to get the equivalent of 15 miles per gallon more than a regular hybrid bus.

The automated fast charging station at Eastgate requires minimal work by the driver; software helps position the bus below the overhead charging head.

According to data collected by other transit agencies operating the Proterra bus, the battery-powered vehicles generate a cost savings of 49% per mile compared to a hybrid bus, and a 40% savings over a diesel bus.

The three battery buses were paid for in part with a $4.7 million federal grant. Metro is pursuing $3.3 million in additional grants to buy six more battery buses and a second charging station, which would enable Metro to completely convert the two Eastside bus routes to 100% electricity.

With the three new battery buses, nearly 70% of Metro’s fleet is now either all-electric or hybrid-electric vehicles.

(A hat-tip to Rich!)



The limited range (23 miles or about 37 Km) between charges will be a major handicap on many routes, specially during rush hours on cold winter days.

The BYD units with 150+ miles range would have more flexibility?

Brian Petersen

I am quite sure Proterra offers an option of higher battery capacity for customers that want it ... It is not necessary to send any more of our manufacturing to China than we already have ...


Lion e-Bus manufactures large school e-buses with lightweight fiber bodies with 3 times the e-range for CAN $150,000 or about 108,000 USD.

Those extended range e-buses could be made to look less school buses like (with Flyers or similar light weight bodies) at much lower cost than short range Proterras and compete with BYDs, VOLVOs etc.

Also, what is good enough for our students should be good enough for public transport services passengers and drivers. Why are $1,000,000 (32 to 40 tonnes) city buses required? Wheelchair passengers could use the special transport vehicles available in most cites.

Brian Petersen

The unitized-construction low-floor arrangement that is insisted upon by transit authorities everywhere, is more expensive to build than the old style separate frame and body high floor arrangement that school buses use. The suspension, in particular, is more sophisticated. Buses intended for revenue service need to take rider comfort into account (because their customers will go elsewhere if they don't). School buses can get away with being rough-riding rattletraps (which they are!) because their passengers generally don't have a choice in the matter, and kids usually don't care too much anyhow!

But this has nothing whatsoever with the drivetrain choice. Urban transit systems could use school buses for revenue service today if they wanted to - and they don't. And if they did ... people wouldn't use them (noisy, rough ride, uncomfortable, small doors, narrow stairs). And the elderly and special-needs customers wouldn't be able to. (High floor, stairs to get in)

FYI a New Flyer transit bus weighs about 14 tonnes empty, not "32 to 40". The GVWR could be that much, but that includes the passenger load.


Sorry BP, I meant to write 32,000 lbs to 40,000 lbs for 40-ft city buses with about 40 seated passengers and a total of 80+ passengers with standees.

Large school buses can take almost the same passenger load, with less comfort of course but good enough for many of our future leaders to ride 1+ hour every school day.

Elderlies, often charter (lower cost) school buses for their extended trips. Nowadays, handicapped people have access to special buses to take them from A to Z, including their wheel chairs etc.

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