For years, we saw North American cities order 3 or 4 electric buses at a time while Chinese cities ordered hundreds or thousands. It was frustrating and annoying, especially considering that electric buses had become cost-competitive with all other options 7 years ago in some places. Well, time marched on, and we’re finally seeing large orders of electric buses.
King County Metro, which serves Seattle and the rest of King County, Washington, recently agreed to purchase 40 sixty-foot Xcelsior CHARGE articulated electric buses from New Flyer. Furthermore, it intends to order another 80 of these battery-electric buses next year.
King County Metro tested out these electric buses in 2018. As tests in many others cities could have told the transit agency, the buses work well, drivers and passengers love them, and costs to operate them are so low that the lifetime costs of the buses are competitive or lower than conventional fossil-powered buses. Unsurprisingly, King County Metro found from its own tests that was the case and decided to make these plans to electrify.
How big are the batteries in these buses? 100 kWh? 150 kWh? 200 kWh? Nope — 466 kWh!
“In 2017, Executive Constantine and Metro General Manager Rob Gannon called on the industry to invest more in battery-electric options, including the creation of coaches that could travel farther and handle the varying terrain requirements of the region,” Green Car Congress reports.
“New Flyer stepped up to the challenge, producing both a 40-foot and 60-foot battery-electric bus that met Metro’s specifications and timeline needs.”
New Flyer has a long history of selling buses to the metro agency. “Since 1979, New Flyer has delivered more than 1,800 buses to Metro, with more than half comprising zero-emission or hybrid-electric powertrains.” Of course, the vast majority of those must be hybrids, but the future will gradually change the balance in favor of 100% electrics.