The University of Georgia (UGA) has plans to add more electric buses on its campus and to host the largest fleet of electric buses out of all the universities in the nation.
Don Walter, Director of UGA Transportation and Parking Services, was excited as he spoke about UGA’s sustainable initiative. “This is cutting-edge technology. We have people from all over the country calling us and visiting us.” Currently, the UGA has 20 electric buses at its transportation facility and 12 charging stations for its buses. Federal and state grants are helping the university to buy 13 more, bringing the UGA zero-emission electric fleet to a total of 33 buses by 2021.
UGA is planning to phase out its diesel fleet. “We don’t ever plan on buying another diesel bus,” Walter said. The campus has 12 charging stations at its transit facility that can handle up to 48 buses. UGA has electric buses on the Orbit route and uses them for campus tours.
The funding for these new buses come from a $10 million state grant from the GA Road and Tollway Authority as well as a $7.56 million US Transit Administration grant. UGA pitched in a 30% match of the grant funding as well.
“Electric bus technology was also evolving rapidly — the longer we researched, the better the buses were becoming,” Walter said about the research UGA had done before purchasing the buses. The buses come with enormous cost savings for the university along with the well known environmental benefits. Diesel buses cost the university $100 a day to run due to the fuel costs, while the electric buses only cost $5–10 a day to run.
UGA, which receives reduced rates on electricity from Georgia Power, will have the buses powered by the grid at the Riverbend Road Campus Transit facility. UGA charges the buses at night when electricity is in lower demand. However, due to the fact that the buses are being charged from the grid, these buses are not powered by renewable energy. Nonetheless, unlike diesel buses, they are not directly putting out carbon emissions and are not polluting the local UGA environment.
UGA shares more details on the partnership with Proterra as well as additional applications at the university:
“After receiving a $10 million grant from the GO! Transit Capital Program administered by Georgia’s State Road and Tollway Authority, the university evaluated and tested electric bus technology to ensure that students, faculty, staff and visitors would receive the best electric bus possible. Tests evaluated several features including bus capacity, handling, turning, hill climbing, battery range, rider and driver experience, acceleration, braking, maintenance and durability.
“The state of Georgia conducted a similar testing and review process and selected Proterra as a statewide vendor for electric buses, enabling the university to procure its new buses under a statewide contract.
“Built nearby in South Carolina, the Proterra Catalyst bus holds records for acceleration and torque as well as distance traveled by an electric vehicle on a single charge, at more than 1,100 miles.
“The positive benefits of electric bus technology go beyond maintenance and operations. The buses will advance research and fieldwork opportunities for students and faculty in the College of Engineering by providing access to live field data. Additionally, in an emergency, the batteries have the potential to supply power to buildings that have been appropriately modified.”