We’re going electric!

Late fall 2018, we’re putting five new New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE™ battery-electric buses into service.

These buses are powered by seriously cool cutting-edge technology, and they have some significant advantages over our current fleet. They’ll also help make the Portland region a nicer place to live for everybody.

 

Here’s what you should know about these buses

They’re quieter

Let’s start with what these new battery electric buses are not quieter than: a pin dropping and rustling leaves. But that’s about it. They scored as the quietest buses ever in one Federal Transit Administration test. The amount of noise they make idling — about 39 decibels — is generally quieter than the ambient noise surrounding them. This means a quieter, more relaxing trip for riders and a more serene city for all of us.

They’re cleaner

Our new battery-electric buses produce zero emissions. This means cleaner air and a more livable city.

They’re easier to maintain

A lot of work goes into keeping our bus fleet in top shape. These new battery-electric buses should be easier — and cheaper — to maintain. They have fewer moving parts than our current buses, which means fewer parts to maintain and fluids to replace. We expect these battery-electric buses should spend more time where they belong: out on the road, serving our riders.

Features

Our USA-built New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE™ buses differ from the buses you’re likely used to.

Here are the features they have… and the things they’re missing:

Regenerative Braking

Every time these buses brake or decelerate, they charge their batteries. This more-efficient approach to brakes reduces energy consumption and extends their range.

Transmission

These buses have a direct drive system; no transmission required. This saves weight and simplifies maintenance.

Infinite Range

Thanks to our on-route rapid charger, these buses could theoretically provide 24 hours of continuous service.

Oil Changes

Change your oil every 3,000 miles? Not with our electric buses. They’ll never require an oil change.

Batteries

No overhead wires here! These buses are powered by on-board batteries. The batteries are recharged by an overhead power source.

Tailpipes

With no emissions, there’s no need for a tailpipe.

 

All the features you would expect on a modern low floor bus will also be present, including A/C and plenty of space (capacity 40 sitting + 36 standing). They’re also highly accessible, with two wheelchair spots, one of our widest bus doors ever, and a ramp than can support up to 1,000 pounds.

Why Now?

While on paper these buses sound great, we need to make sure they live up to their promise before we roll them out system-wide.

This isn’t our first experiment with electric buses. All the way back in 2002 we tried out two diesel-electric hybrids and we currently operate eight hybrids that we began to introduce in 2012. While those buses had some advantages, we ultimately didn’t see the performance we needed for us to roll them out system-wide.

We hope these buses are different. Electric bus technology has advanced significantly over the past few years, and electric buses have become more economical. Other cities such as New York City, Los Angeles and Winnipeg are using or testing these same New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE™ battery-electric buses.

The Test

Thanks to a federal grant, as well as support from Portland General Electric, we’ve been able to purchase five buses. These buses will run on Line 62-Murray Blvd in Beaverton.

As of April 2018, our buses are being manufactured in Alabama. While we await delivery of the first bus (anticipated for June 2018), we will be installing the maintenance and charging infrastructure we need to operate the buses. Later this summer, we’ll begin testing and training our staff on these battery-electric buses with an eye towards rolling them out for revenue service in Fall 2018.

This route — which runs from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., covers 13 miles and climbs nearly 700 feet in elevation — will allow us to test these buses under tough, real-world conditions. We’ll get a sense of overall performance, how these buses handle everyday wear-and-tear and what maintenance schedules should be.

62-Murray Blvd

62-Murray Blvd map

The Future

Seeing how these buses operate under real-world conditions will help us assess if these battery-electric buses are a viable and economic option for system-wide expansion.

Whether electricity or hydrogen-powered, we believe cleaner alternative fuels are the future of transit. We’re excited to embark on this test that will move us one step closer to this vision.

Stay in the Loop

We hope to have a Meet-The-Bus event after they arrive in Portland later this summer. To receive information about this event, as well as news about electric and other alternative fuel vehicles, sign up for email updates.