City dwellers have long suffered the negative effects of the exhaust emissions pouring out of the tailpipes of large diesel transit buses, school buses, and the like. Having ridden the bus to school in elementary school, I have very early memories of the thick columns of black exhaust being piped out the back of the bus after being dropped off. It was never pleasant but recent studies revealing just how harmful and carcinogenic that very same diesel exhaust is to our health have made those large diesel vehicles targets for cities around the world as they work to map out their path forward to a clean air future.
The low-hanging fruit that heavy diesel city vehicles present for cities looking to clean up their air has become one of my favorite areas of cleantech to dive into. Converting school buses, transit buses, tour company buses, and shuttle buses like those at airports and hospitals to electric vehicles is a no brainer because of the predictable distance these vehicles run per day or per shift and the very predictable cost of ownership of current and future vehicles. Diesel vehicles are plagued with high fuel costs, high maintenance costs, and unpredictable emission regulations that can mandate stricter emission controls with the stroke of a pen.
It is with these very same objectives in mind that the GreenPower Motor Company* has burst onto the electric bus scene. The company is laser focused on developing a fleet of completely new, cost-competitive electric buses from the ground up. They are not buying or retrofitting existing buses, which come with their own set of compromises, but have instead started with a blank sheet of paper and built up from there to ensure GP buses are optimized to be the best electric vehicles on the road.
GreenPower buses are built with components from name-brand suppliers — like Siemens for its drive motors, Knorr for brakes, and other name-brand manufacturers into its vehicles. Using high-quality, industry-standard components ensures that the buses deliver high performance over their lifetimes while also making part sourcing a non-issue when maintenance or replacement is required. In addition, because GP buses were built as electric vehicles from the ground up, the main drive motors can be swapped out in just 45 minutes in the event that is required — meaning maintenance and upgrades take minutes instead of hours, saving valuable maintenance dollars.
GreenPower is currently the only publicly traded pure EV bus company and has built the company from the ground up on electric buses. It started off with a transit bus and has expanded its offerings to a full suite of electric transit buses, including my personal favorite, a double-decker bus that can haul around an impressive 100 seated passengers (with capacity for standing passengers on top of that).
Also known as the EV550, the double-decker bus stands an impressive 14 feet tall, offering upper deck passengers better views of their surroundings. The bus seems like a great solution for densely populated urban cities where transit operators are looking to move more people around with the double benefit of a smaller footprint than an articulating bus and a better riding experience for passengers. It’s also not hard to imagine the EV550 being used as a tour bus in cities. It’s a perfect bus to pack with tourists eager to take in views of the city from an exclusive upper deck.
In addition to being a double-decker bus, the EV550 is obviously fully electric and has a range of up to 250 miles before needing to be charged, which makes it a great option for urban operators.
What may come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with what it takes to operate a fleet of transit vehicles is that the routes are very predictable (by design) and are generally operated at low speeds. Both of these factors make urban transit routes great candidates for going electric (for example, with one of the many zero-emissions buses offered by GreenPower). If a bus only ever drives 189 miles in a day, a bus with a 200 or 250 mile range is more than sufficient to run the route.
Adding in the lower total cost to operate and environmental benefits, upgrading to an electric bus makes tons of sense. Take a look at the video below for a deeper dive into the GreenPower EV550 Double Decker electric bus.
Flipping to the other end of the lineup is the EV Star Shuttle, which is the little brother of the family. While smaller than its massive transit siblings, it holds its own with a carrying capacity of 19 passengers. It too is a great fit for routes like those run by airport parking lots or local medical transport, routes with distances that are either fixed or very predictable, on average.
Electric shuttles (and buses) are much quieter than their diesel, natural gas, or even hybrid counterparts, providing a much more pleasant user experience that will help transit operators lure back customers who might not enjoy riding in the back of a loud diesel bus but would enjoy the smooth, quiet ride that comes with the electric drivetrain package.
In addition to the shuttle and double-decker buses, GreenPower offers a variety of midrange transit buses, all at the standard 102″ width with heights varying from 10.5 feet to 10.9 feet, depending on the specific configuration.
What’s exciting to me about their offerings is that all of them come in at less than $10,000 per seat except for their 40 foot low-floor coach … BEFORE the California Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) incentive, which gives buyers $80,000 to $100,000 off of each vehicle (the incentive depends on the location where they will be used, how many vehicles are purchased, and a few other factors). That puts these buses at competitive upfront capital pricing with comparable diesel, natural gas, and hybrid buses without even relying on government programs.
After the upfront purchase, operating costs are lower, with electricity coming at consistently lower cost compared to other fuels and with significantly reduced maintenance requirements — and thus, costs.
GreenPower Motor Company also offers a school bus that many parents and school districts should find compelling. Cost aside, it operates much quieter and obviously has zero emissions coming from its non-existent tailpipe, meaning kids get to school without having to breathe in carcinogenic diesel exhaust each and every day. That benefit is hard to understate considering how much more vulnerable children are to environmental pollutants.
In summary, GreenPower Motor Company has built up a full lineup of transit bus and shuttle products that are poised to meet the needs of transit agencies, school districts, parking lot operators, and the like across the US at prices that are competitive with legacy offerings today without incentives … and incentives are available.
GreenPower’s products make it easy to get informed and take the data to take to your local transit agency or school district to demand clean air vehicles for your local community.
For more about GreenPower Motor Company and its vehicles, head over to http://www.greenpowerbus.com/ to learn how the team is building the future of transportation, one vehicle at a time.
*This post has been sponsored by GreenPower Motor Company; images from GreenPower Motor Company