When it comes to zero-emissions buses, it takes green to go green. An articulated, 60-foot battery electric transit bus, for example, can cost up to $400,000 more than one powered with compressed natural gas.
That’s why many state and city transit agencies rely on federal grants to help offset their cost.
The grants typically require successful completion of Federal Transit Administration bus tests for maintenance, reliability, safety and other features.
The country’s largest transit bus maker – New Flyer of America – recently completed the FTA bus test for its 60-foot Xcelsior Charge battery-electric articulated model. The eBRT can carry up to 132 people and is designed for use in what is known as Bus Rapid Transit – routes that circumvent traffic by using dedicated lanes with limited stops.
First and only
The Xcelsior Charge eBRT is the first and only 60-foot articulated electric bus to complete FTA bus testing. The tests were conducted by Pennsylvania State University’s Thomas D. Larson Transportation Institute in University Park, Pa.
Under the agency’s low- or no-emissions competitive program, the FTA will pay up to 85 percent of state and local governments’ cost to lease or purchase buses that meet or exceed the the agency’s minimum standards.
“The FTA testing regulation applies to all new bus models that are acquired by cities and communities using FTA funding,” said David Warren, director of sustainable transportation for New Flyer.
City agencies that have so far placed orders for New Flyer’s eBRT include the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Metropolitan Council of Minneapolis and Seattle’s King County Metro. The Xcelsior Charge version of the 60-foot bus is in production at various New Flyer factories, including those in Anniston, Ala., and St. Cloud, Minn.
“Buses are a natural application area for electrification of commercial vehicles,” said Antti Lindstrom, an analyst with IHS Markit. “They have predictable routes, relatively short operating distances per day and will return to a central location for overnight charging of their batteries.”
The New Flyer articulated eBRT can travel 140 to 200 miles per charge with a 600-kilowatt-hour battery pack and 250 to 320 miles with a hydrogen fuel-cell range extender.
With the addition of the hydrogen fuel cell, “support for this technology is expected to grow,” Lindstrom added, “perhaps giving validation to truck startup Nikola, whose entire business model is built on that energy source and powerplant solution.”