By George Harvey
In the December, 2014 Green Energy Times article, “Proterra’s All Electric Bus” (http://bit.ly/GET-Proterra), we noted that the city of Worcester, Massachusetts had recently started running six Proterra buses. Since then, Worcester has reported that the buses have functioned as promised, with short charging times and low operating costs. It is significant that the electric buses worked well in the cold New England winters. With that experience, the idea spread, and testing is currently underway in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont, and in Burlington, Vermont.
The Burlington program arose from the Vermont Renewable Energy Standard, which took effect in January, 2017 and changed the utilities’ efficiency goals somewhat. James Gibbons, Director of Policy and Planning at the Burlington Electric Department (BED), explained, “The old mantra of efficiency is reducing use, but the new one is to reduce emissions.”
A portion of the standard, Tier III, provides for utilities to engage in innovative strategic electrification, and encourages them to find new ways to reduce emissions. “BED is proposing a custom Tier III electric bus program to address the transportation needs of Vermonters served by Green Mountain Transit Authority (GMTA), the University of Vermont and potentially other Burlington entities,” Gibbons said. He noted that replacing a single diesel bus with an electric bus would displace 77 tons of CO2 annually.
BED’s Tier III program would offer to a transit company incentives to use an electric bus, for which BED could claim Tier III credits. Both the utility and the transit organization benefit. The details have not yet been worked out, but the expectation is that they will be soon. Gibbons said he had learned that GMTA is evaluating the total cost of owning so-called “clean diesel” and compressed natural gas buses, and BED’s incentive for using an electric bus is an important consideration.
In the Upper Valley, Advance Transit (AT) will also test an electric bus. BYD, a bus manufacturer, is helping by loaning it a bus for a month.
AT operates a number of bus routes that run through Upper Valley communities in Vermont and New Hampshire. A long-standing special feature of AT is that bus rides are free on all routes.
Chris Andreasson, AT’s Director of Operations, told us, “The big issue is with the colder weather. Will the bus keep the customers comfortable? How long will the charge in the battery last in cold weather?” With all the benefits of electric buses, companies need to know that they are as comfortable and reliable as those that are currently in operation.
Both of these programs are just now under way, and reports will doubtless come in over the next few months. We will keep track of progress.