In The News

Cuomo pushes electric bus initiative

Published by Times Union

ALBANY — It’s been nearly a year since the Capital District Transportation Authority introduced its first all-electric transit buses on the streets of Albany, Schenectady and Troy.

It wasn’t clear how well they would perform in winter weather, or whether the hills on many routes would drain their batteries too quickly.

But the buses “have performed as well as the manufacturer told us they would,” CDTA spokeswoman Jaime Watson said Tuesday.

Now, the transit authority is talking with manufacturers and National Grid about adding to the fleet, and an initiative announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is intended to help CDTA do just that.

State funds would help cover the cost premium — as much as $400,000 per vehicle — that an electric bus typically carries over the traditional diesel-powered vehicle. While a diesel bus may cost $450,000 to $500,000, the electric version costs closer to $900,000. Some of that difference is likely offset through lower operating costs — everything from savings on diesel fuel, minus the cost of electricity, to having fewer moving parts needing regular maintenance — and CDTA’s ongoing trials with its first four buses are accumulating the data necessary to quantify those costs.

CDTA typically orders about 20 new buses annually. This year, that order is likely to include another four electric buses, Watson said. CDTA’s charging infrastructure currently can handle as many as eight to 10 buses. Increasing the fleet beyond that size would require additional charging capacity.

But increasing the fleet is what Cuomo wants to do. His goal is to have CDTA and other transit agencies operating 100 percent zero-emissions fleets by 2035.

CDTA operates a fleet of 235 buses, Watson said. The first electric buses, built by New Flyer Industries, went into service last Jan. 10, and have operated on various routes throughout CDTA’s network since then. They return each night to the Albany bus garage to be recharged.

The CDTA board still must approve purchases of additional buses, something it likely will do in the early part of 2021. If that happens, the electric fleet could double to eight buses by early 2022.

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