What is it about trolleys that are so appealing? The city of San Francisco loses millions of dollars a year keeping its iconic trolley car system running. Tennessee Williams wrote an entire play about a trolley named Desire. For reasons only a clinical psychologist could explain, a trolley puts a grin on people’s faces while an ordinary bus does quite the opposite.
Like many transportation agencies, Valley Transit, a municipal corporation owned by the city of Walla Walla, Washington, has a history of using buses that look like trolleys. But they have always been based on diesel-powered bus chassis. When it wanted to replace four of its diesel trolleys with electric versions, it turned to BYD for help.
BYD partnered with Cable Car Classics of Healdsburg, California, to design a trolley that uses a 35-foot BYD transit bus chassis as its starting point. The result was quiet, zero emission trolleys, each capable of transporting 30 passengers. “We wanted to go electric and we wanted to maintain our branding,” says Angie Peters, Valley Transit’s general manager, in a press release. “A purpose built vehicle was very appealing.”
The trolleys are now in service on a route that includes the city’s downtown area and community college. Charging stations for the electric trolleys were installed at the Valley Transit bus depot and at a downtown transfer station. “The public absolutely loves them,” Peters says. “The community are big, big fans. They are so much quieter. That’s a big hit with staff and customers.”
The trolleys are so quiet that when one of them was used in a community parade, someone asked if something was wrong with it. They thought the trolley was being pushed, Peters says. Drivers are competing to see who can return the vehicles with the most charge left, she reports. The record, set on a quiet holiday, stands at 48%.
A goal for the agency is to go fully electric, Peters says. “BYD has been a good partner. We are very appreciative of that.” Patrick Duan, senior vice president for BYD North America is quick to return the complement. “Valley Transit is a great customer of ours. We are proud we could partner with them to come up with an innovative solution that met their branding goals while at the same time helping them protect their community’s quality of life.”
Valley Transit is one of more than 50 BYD bus customers across the United States. To date, BYD electric buses have logged over 18.2 million miles of zero emission operations — equivalent to 38 trips to the moon and back. At a time when the US government is supporting programs to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road in America, BYD is happy to tout the fact that all its buses meet strict Buy America standards and are produced in an ISO 9001 certified American factory located in Lancaster, California.