Monday, July 20, 2020 by Ryan Thornton

Capital Metro to bring fleet electrification experts on board

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority has purchased 12 electric buses this fiscal year, half of which have been delivered to the electric bus yard under construction at the North Operations facility. With the other six scheduled to arrive in the next four weeks, the agency is now ready to bring in technical assistance to help guide the transition to a zero-emission transportation fleet.

The board of directors is set to consider a $175,000 contract with the Center for Transportation and the Environment for a full year of support. The nonprofit will help assess critical questions like the actual range of the new buses under local conditions, the compatibility of various charging technologies and the ideal charging infrastructure to keep buses running as long as possible every day.

In the longer term, the nonprofit will collaborate with Capital Metro, MV Transportation and Austin Energy to help create a plan for electric transportation and fleet expansion on a larger scale and a system of performance metrics to measure success of the buses and charging infrastructure.

The partnership is a condition of the $2.6 million Low- or No-Emission bus grant Capital Metro received from the Federal Transit Administration last year. The Center for Transportation and the Environment assisted with the application and was named as a partner for technology assistance should the grant be awarded.

“Now that the buses are here, we are entering into the contract with (the Center for Transportation and the Environment) to provide those services,” Capital Metro spokesperson Jenna Maxfield told the Austin Monitor. “(They) will give us access to subject matter experts who’ve been through battery electric bus implementations before.”

In 2018, the Center for Transportation and the Environment co-led a zero-emission bus workshop series with Capital Metro to discuss potential opportunities and challenges of an all-electric bus fleet. The nonprofit has helped numerous cities and counties across the nation develop zero-emission plans and get electric buses on the ground, and has recently joined the Connecticut Department of Transportation to deploy the nation’s first automated electric full-size transit buses.

Capital Metro received its second Low- or No-Emission bus grant in May this year. The $2.26 million will be used to purchase four additional 60-foot electric buses from New Flyer, which will be delivered sometime in Fiscal Year 2022. As those buses arrive, Capital Metro will again initiate a contract with the Center for Transportation and the Environment as a condition of its grant award.

Over the next five fiscal years, Capital Metro plans to invest $74.4 million in zero-emission transit bus purchases and $7.5 million in electric charging infrastructure. It has also allocated $2.6 million in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget for further development of its North Ops electric bus yard, which will ultimately provide chargers for 187 buses.

As part of its next scheduled fleet replacement effort, Capital Metro is preparing to buy 19 additional 40-foot electric buses from an undetermined manufacturer in Fiscal Year 2022.

All 12 of the city’s first electric transit buses will be on the streets this year. Capital Metro is currently preparing the buses for service, scheduling operator and mechanic trainings and performing tests. This week, the agency will commission a temporary charging station for the new buses while the electric parking facility is under construction.

As of this week, Capital Metro has received four 40-foot buses from New Flyer and two 40-foot buses from Proterra. Over the next month, two 60-foot New Flyer buses and four 40-foot Proterra buses will also be delivered. When the buses hit the streets, the agency will make it easy to find them around town using its online electric bus tracker.

Photo by Jonathunder/GFDL 1.2.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Capital Metro: The city’s urban transportation system.

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