In The News

Orlando Sentinel: Electric Bus Dazzles Orlando, Local Transportation Officials

Orlando Sentinel – August 18, 2017:  Officials from the city of Orlando and the region’s public bus service took a test spin Friday in a gleaming, new electric bus — a quiet vehicle with smooth handling and more than a little sticker shock.  The emission-free vehicles cost $250,000 to $350,000 more than a conventional bus at about $500,000. But electric versions make a strong case for paying now or paying later, city sustainability director Chris Castro said.

“We think the move toward electric buses will improve quality of life, it will help improve public health, it will save money,” he said.  They don’t dirty the air as much as a diesel or natural-gas bus, cause as much climate-changing pollution or require as much maintenance, Castro said. Over the decade or so of an electric bus’ lifespan, the reduced upkeep and considerably smaller energy bill make the vehicle competitive in price with diesel or natural-gas versions, he said.

Lynx pays for buses through grants from the Federal Transit Administration. It’s up to Lynx and its local-government partners to cover the other costs, including drivers, maintenance and bus-route infrastructure, Lynx spokesman Matt Friedman said. To that end, Lynx and Orlando have to figure out the expense of adapting to electric buses, such as the cost of charging stations, for example, and whether their range and performance are a good fit for local routes.

Lynx plans to try out three manufacturers, free of charge, during the next few months; the city is tagging along with an interest in applying electric buses to the free Lymmo service in the city’s core. The first was unveiled Friday in front of City Hall, then loaded with curious riders for a loop around downtown and Parramore.

At 40 feet long, 32,000 pounds and able to haul 80 passengers, the blue bus didn’t seem much different than an ordinary city bus. It gushed cool air and had many handles to hang on to. Getting on was Mayor Buddy Dyer, who wound up with other officials in front-section seats. “Electric vehicles have been on our radar screen for a long time,” he said. Dyer said the performance characteristics of electric buses make them suited for Lymmo routes of short segments and many stops.

As with hybrid or electric cars, electric buses generate their own electricity when braking. The bus’ handling was easy to get used to, said driver Carlos Smith. “It’s simpler to drive,” he said, in part because it would slow down responsively when he lifted his foot off the accelerator pedal and spurt ahead nicely when he pushed down on it.

While electric buses themselves don’t have tailpipes, they are charged with electricity from power plants that burn natural gas and coal. But a study published last year by a Columbia University researcher found that electric buses still have a smaller greenhouse-gas footprint than conventional buses.


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