Vermont officials met at the Green Mountain Transit central garage in Burlington Tuesday afternoon to unveil the city’s first two electric buses that will be deployed for commuter transit.
Burlington is a 100-percent renewable energy city and is working to become a net zero energy city. To help meet that goal officials unveiled two new electric buses. Burlington Electric Department General Manager Darren Springer says there are several benefits to transitioning the fleet. “Over 7000 gallons of diesel each bus is going to avoid annually; 78 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually avoided by each bus. They're going to be charging up off peak so they're benefiting all of our customers by using electricity when it's cheaper so there's going to be a ratepayer benefit to that. When we use renewable electricity here in Burlington instead of diesel we're not only benefiting the environment we're keeping more dollars in the local economy.”
Democratic Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says the electric buses set a milestone toward the city’s climate goals and attempts to respond to the global climate emergency. “Over the last couple years, we have been working towards being a net zero energy city across not just the electricity sector, where we're already there, but also the ground transportation and thermal sectors. The key strategy to achieving that is to electrify everything. If we can electrify these vehicles, I think it is a great sign that we can electrify the rest of the fleet and rapidly move towards the goals laid out in the city’s net zero energy city roadmap.”
In his State of the State on January 21st Governor Phil Scott proposed a $3 million package for electric vehicle incentives. The Republican calls the new buses an exciting expansion of vehicle electrification. “I'm a car guy. What we're seeing right before our eyes is something significant. This transition is happening and it's exciting to see.”
Vermont Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn said each electric bus cost about a million dollars. But he adds long term costs are lower than the current diesel fleet’s. “This is the first delivery of vehicles associated with the four current EV transit projects in Vermont. While purchase costs are higher, we are expecting a reduction in operational and maintenance costs with these vehicles. And in addition to no emissions and other benefits to environment, these vehicles may in part help to dress a projected shortage in vehicle maintenance personnel as we look into the future.”
The electric buses are scheduled to be used on Burlington’s Red Line route, which includes areas near the Burlington High School. Senior Sophia Toche says she, her mother and most students use the bus system but until now climate-aware individuals have not had an environmentally responsible choice. “This is an important step, but only if we can commit to finishing the work. By 2030 we need every bus in Burlington to be electric. We need every bus worldwide to be electric. And we need our whole economy to be green. Our future’s at stake. For my generation this is personal. And I look forward to riding these new buses in the days ahead knowing that the change we need is happening.”
During a demonstration ride Green Mountain Transit Training Supervisor Jeremy Whiting noted the lack of engine noise. “It's virtually silent. Couple of weird, it’s like electrical noises that's what you hear. You don't hear the sound of engines and motors. Actually in the very back you can hear a lot more of just the sounds that the actual vehicle makes. Because that's where the drive train is though and when he when he hits the brakes, that's where I guess the motor, but it's not a motor.”
The buses will go into service in March. The buses can travel about 187 miles per charge and will be charged overnight during off-peak hours.