Southern Maine bus companies set to roll out electric buses

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The Greater Portland Metro and Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach (BSOOB) plans to put four electric buses into service next month.

When they go into service on May 17, they will become Maine’s first all-electric, zero-emissions fixed-route buses. Greater Portland Transit currently has a fleet of 44 buses powered by compressed natural gas or diesel.

Greater Portland Metro is a separate entity from BSOOB Transit, a municipal partnership, but they have teamed up to secure nearly $6 million in federal and state funding to acquire the four electric buses from well-known California manufacturer, Proterra .

Proterra states on its website that it has been in the electric bus manufacturing business for 10 years and has sold over 1,300 buses to over 135 transit agencies in 43 Canadian states and provinces.

Each of the southern Maine transit agencies will roll out two electric buses after they are introduced at a public launch event in mid-May.

“We are at the beginning of a transformation of our fleet, moving from a fossil fuel operating system to an electric system,” said Gregory Jordan, chief executive of Greater Portland Metro, in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

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The Greater Portland Metro is committed to becoming a zero-emission transit system by 2040, Jordan said.

Chad Heid, executive director of BSOOB Transit, said its fleet consists of eight trolleys, two commuter coaches and 11 buses, all powered by diesel. BSOOB is preparing to apply for additional federal funding to acquire more electric buses in the near future.

Unlike the Greater Portland Metro, which will have a charging station located at its Valley Street facilities in Portland, BSOOB Transit will have a charging station in its Biddeford garage and will install charging stations along the route at the Saco Transportation Center more late this year. These stations on the road will allow buses to stay longer.

Jordan said the purchase of two electric buses represents the culmination of an effort that began in 2018 when the Greater Portland Metro sought help from the Federal Transit Administration, which offered funding to transit agencies together to help fleets switch to electricity.

The two electric buses that have been acquired by Greater Portland Metro will cost nearly $3 million and will be funded by a mix of federal and state money – including Maine’s share of the $21 million federal legal settlement. with Volkswagen, the automaker that cheated on its emissions. trial. The composition of the financing was the same for the two electric buses purchased by BSOOB Transit.

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“It just took us a while to put all our ducks in a row,” Jordan said of the delay.

The first electric bus is already in Portland and the second should be delivered in two weeks. In the meantime, the Greater Portland Metro is putting the finishing touches on the charging station that will be located at its Valley Street facility, Jordan said.

The Proterra ZX5 buses are due to be unveiled at the launch event scheduled for May 16, according to an announcement posted Wednesday on the Greater Portland Metro Facebook page.

Jordan warned that operating two electric buses is a pilot project to see how they perform during a harsh Maine winter. In addition to the climate impact, energy prices are another factor that Greater Portland Metro must consider.

“Their lineup in the dead of winter won’t be as robust as their lineup will be in July,” Jordan said. “We’re very clear-headed about what these buses can do for us, especially during a typical Maine winter.”

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Proterra estimates its 35-foot ZX5 bus has a range of 240 miles on a single charge. Its 40ft bus has a range of 329 miles on a single charge. The two Maine agencies are purchasing two 35-foot electric buses.

Jordan was unable Wednesday night to provide figures on how much money and fuel will be saved by using electric buses, but he said the diesel buses currently in use average about 5 miles per gallon .

Visually, electric buses will look a little different from a diesel bus, but the biggest difference may appear in the ride, Jordan said.

“Electric buses will be much quieter and should provide…a much more pleasant driving experience,” he said.

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