In what is believed to be a transit industry first in the United States, TriMet’s all-electric buses will be powered by 100 percent wind energy. TriMet and project partner Portland General Electric made the historic announcement on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. As Oregon’s largest transit provider, TriMet has committed to a non-diesel bus fleet by 2040. The initial journey toward a non-diesel fleet now begins with battery-electric buses that will be powered by PGE’s Clean Wind℠ renewable energy program.
TriMet’s Board of Directors, on Sept. 26, 2018, approved the agency’s ambitious plan to transition to a clean energy bus fleet. That transition begins on April 19, 2019, with the official launch of TriMet’s first all-electric bus. The New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE™ zero-emission bus has been conducting some initial testing in revenue service since early March. It will soon be joined by four matching electric buses, all of which will run on TriMet Line 62-Murray Blvd in Washington County, and all powered by renewable wind energy.
As Oregon Governor Kate Brown has made climate action and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions a priority for the state, TriMet’s launch of battery electric buses is a critical first step to a green bus fleet.
TriMet’s electric buses have electric motors powered by energy stored in rechargeable battery packs instead of combustion engines fueled by diesel. These buses will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 100-140 tons per year compared to a 40-foot diesel bus and about 75 tons per year compared to TriMet’s eight diesel-hybrid buses. Like our current hybrid buses and select MAX trains, the electric buses have regenerative braking. This means when the vehicle slows, kinetic energy is captured and can be used immediately or stored in the battery for later use.
TriMet already helps reduce carbon emissions every time a person chooses to ride our transit service over driving their car. In fact, we estimate that TriMet eliminates about 210,000 car trips every day. That reduces carbon emissions by roughly 57 percent compared to a single occupant vehicle and offsets the diesel emissions from our buses by roughly 21,000 metric tons per year.
Our electric buses will run much quieter than standard diesel buses. Without a rumbling engine, you’ll notice less noise and a smoother ride. The buses are equipped with all of the features TriMet riders have come to expect, including accessibility with low-floor boarding and extension ramp, climate control and seating for up to 40 people. The electric buses will come with an adjustable safety panel around the operator’s seat to provide security for our drivers while they control the bus as well as closed-circuit security cameras.
TriMet’s first five battery-electric buses come thanks to a $3.4 million federal grant, plus an innovative partnership with PGE. The grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Low and No Emission (Low-No) Vehicle Deployment program initially paid for four buses. Under the PGE partnership, the utility will own and maintain the electric charging equipment. The savings from the partnership allowed TriMet to purchase a fifth bus, with more electric buses coming down the road. In August 2018, TriMet received a second FTA Low-No grant that will provide five additional electric buses.
In addition to these initial 10 electric buses, TriMet plans to purchase up to another 80 electric buses over the next five to six years with $53 million in funds generated by the Keep Oregon Moving Act. These first zero-emission buses will run in predominately low-income and minority communities.
The technology for battery electric buses is still emerging. Over the next five years, TriMet will put the electric buses through real-world testing in hilly terrains and local traffic conditions. We’ll evaluate performance, cost and reliability of the buses and determine whether to accelerate our transition, slow it down or increase testing of other technologies and alternatives, including potentially hydrogen and renewable natural gas.