We’re going electric!
We’re testing electric buses as we work towards an all-alternative fuel bus fleet.
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 everyone.
Here’s what you should know about electric buses
Let’s start with what battery electric buses are not quieter than: a pin dropping and rustling leaves. But that’s about it. Our first electric buses — the New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE™ — 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.
Battery electric buses produce zero emissions, which 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. 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 hope these battery-electric buses will spend more time where they belong: out on the road, serving our riders.
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:
Every time these buses brake or decelerate, they charge their batteries. This more-efficient approach to brakes reduces energy consumption and extends their range.
These buses have a direct drive system; no transmission required. This saves weight and simplifies maintenance.
Thanks to our on-route rapid charger, these buses could theoretically provide 24 hours of continuous service.
Change your oil every 3,000 miles? Not with our electric buses. They’ll never require an oil change.
No overhead wires here! These buses are powered by on-board batteries. The batteries are recharged by an overhead power source.
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.
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.
The First Test
Our first five electric buses were purchased thanks to a federal grant as well as support from Portland General Electric. These buses will run on Line 62-Murray Blvd in Beaverton.
This route — which runs from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., covers 13 miles and climbs nearly 700 feet in elevation — allows us to test these buses under tough, real-world conditions. We’re getting a sense of overall performance, how these buses handle everyday wear-and-tear and what maintenance schedules should be.
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.
We’ll be testing other types of electric buses from different manufactures, as we try to find the vehicles that works best for our us.
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.
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Low-No Bus Grant
We have been awarded a $3.4 million federal grant to purchase zero-emission electric buses, along with fast-charging equipment. Learn more
We are part of an association of transit agencies, public utilities and bus manufacturers under consideration for federal funding to examine the benefits and costs of transitioning to an electric bus fleet. Learn more