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!)