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Country’s Largest Transit Bus System on Electric Buying Spree

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is doubling down on electric. Since the country’s largest transit bus system said in July that it would convert its entire 2,200-bus fleet to electric propulsion by 2030, it’s placed orders with Chinese EV maker BYD and now its largest order yet — with bus maker New Flyer.

L.A. Metro has committed to buying 35 of the St. Cloud, Minn.-based manufacturer’s 60-foot articulated e-buses, with the option to buy another 65.

“We’re working hard to provide transit authorities and their passengers with more attractive transportation options that they can feel good about,” said Wayne Joseph, president of New Flyer of America.

New Flyer has been building the people haulers for L.A. Metro for about 25 years, Joseph said, including a recently completed order for about 900 that run on compressed natural gas.

New Flyer is the largest transit bus maker in North America, and is the only manufacturer of 60-foot articulated buses.  It primarily builds buses that run on CNG and diesel fuels, but others have hybrid and pure electric power trains – like the buses L.A. Metro ordered last week. The company also is testing a hydrogen fuel cell bus.

Powered with its Xcelsior Charge battery system, New Flyer’s 40-foot electric bus can run for 240 miles on a single charge, carrying 80 passengers with the air conditioning running. Its 60-foot articulated bus can hold up to 120 passengers and travel up to 230 miles per charge.

“The idea of buses is pretty simple,” Joseph said. “It’s to move people safely and comfortably to where they need to go. When you say how far a bus will go, you’ve got to be able to say it will go that far with a comfortable environment, safely.”

The advantages of an electric bus, Joseph said, are numerous. For passengers, the ride is quieter. For cities, e-buses also enhance air quality.

“These new electric buses will help improve air quality and reduce noise pollution,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said when the New Flyer-L.A. Metro deal was announced last week. “Metro is fully committed to improving the health of people across the region.”

For fleet operators, e-buses also save money though they cost more up front. A 40-foot transit bus powered with CNG ranges in price from $450,000 for a basic, no-nonsense model to $800,000 with bells and whistles like improved seats and entertainment screens. By comparison, an electric version of the same size would cost between $700,000 and $900,000, Joseph said.

The savings in operation and maintenance costs are longer term. New Flyer estimates its e-buses will save up to $400,000 in energy costs and up to $125,000 in maintenance over the average 12-year life span of a transit bus.

L.A. Metro’s purchase of New Flyer e-buses is the latest, and largest, EV purchase order it’s placed since July, when it announced that it would buy 60 transit buses from the Chinese EV maker BYD. BYD’s 40-foot buses are powered with huge 324 kWh battery packs that charge in about four hours, using BYD’s 80-kilowatt-hour charging stations. The BYD buses can carry up to 40 passengers, have a top speed of 62 mph and a range of about 160 miles.

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