Earlier this year, Laketran — the transit agency serving Lake County, Ohio (pop. 230,000) just northeast of Cleveland — opened the doors on a new facility. The Frank Polivka Transit Center is the state’s first electric bus charging facility. It houses six ABB E-mobility 450 kW chargers used to charge 10 New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE electric transit buses that will be in regular operation by this fall.
A Transit Pioneer
Frank Polivka was Laketran’s first employee, serving as the agency’s general manager from 1979 to 2003, and has been a longtime champion of public transit. While at Laketran, Frank started the Dial-a-Ride program, still running today, that provides on-demand transportation services to mobility-impaired people.
Under his leadership, Laketran also won the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American Public Transit Association in 2000 for systems carrying more than one million passengers annually. Laketran won the award again in 2005 after Frank had taken a position at the neighboring Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, as good an indication as any of his legacy.
The transit center is located at the agency’s busiest site, which serves 65,000 commuters every year, including 30,000 riders to nearby Lakeland Community College. Laketran serves 750,000 riders per year system-wide.
The Shift to Electric
According to Laketran CEO Ben Capelle, the decision to go electric was driven by three primary concerns: carbon, noise, and costs.
“We’re very conscious of the impact transportation has on the environment,” he said, “and we’re committed to improving the air quality in Northeast Ohio. Electric buses will not only reduce air and noise pollution, but also our operating expenses.”
Laketran is replacing 12-year-old diesel buses with battery electric vehicles, eliminating diesel fuel costs, engine noise, and most required maintenance, along with emissions. Capelle stated that each electric bus can save up to $400,000 in fuel costs and $125,000 in maintenance costs over its 12-year life.
The event was exceptionally well attended. Pat Hayes, ABB E-mobility’s Heavy Vehicle Charging Solutions Manager, noted that he’d never seen such a large crowd at a transit project ribbon-cutting ceremony. “The attendees were clearly excited to tour the new facility, experience the new electric buses, and witness the overhead charging technology in action,” he said.
The six ABB overhead chargers, which can deliver up to 450 kW of power charging a bus in 3 to 6 minutes, feature pantograph connection charging that can be mounted on a ceiling at a depot or on a robust pole for on-route or opportunity charging. When a bus pulls up to the charger, the charger communicates with the bus, enabling the automatic connection to initiate a charge session.
Laketran employs these chargers at the Frank Polivka Transit Center as well as at route stops to extend range when needed. To ensure future-proof operation, the chargers are designed for interoperability with every vehicle OEM via open charging standards, and are equipped with connectivity for remote monitoring, diagnostics, and on-demand software updates.
The New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE buses are state of the art, with new automated wheelchair access that is entirely passenger-operated and 12 onboard cameras to give the driver complete visibility inside and outside the vehicle. The ABB chargers and New Flyer buses are engineered to perform reliably in cold weather environments like Northeast Ohio and all systems were built in the US in compliance with Buy America requirements.
When the buses enter service this fall, Laketran will shift 60% of the local bus fleet to zero-emission vehicles. Data from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency shows that the project will remove 1.5 tons of air pollution annually. That includes CO2 as well as nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide.
Beyond environmental benefits, battery electric transit buses now often outperform internal combustion vehicles on a total cost of ownership basis. Thanks to Frank and his legacy, the citizens of Lake County can look forward to many years of clean, reliable, cost-effective transit.
*This article is supported by ABB.