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Santa Monica Purchases Its First Electric Bus


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July 31, 2018 -- Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus took the first concrete step towards an emission-free future when the City Council last week authorized the purchase of its first electric bus.

To add the vehicle by year's end, BBB will alter its contract with Gillig to exchange one of the 20 planned Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses it purchased for a prototype battery electric bus (BEB) at an additional cost of $429,559.

"Gillig’s proposed partnership with BBB is to test a prototype of an all-electric propulsion system designed and built by Cummins for use in a heavy-duty bus," staff wrote in its report.

"The bus would be used for proof of concept, allowing BBB to learn what infrastructure and process changes would be needed to incorporate battery electric transit buses into its fleet."

The 40-foot bus is the cornerstone of a pilot project to create a sub-fleet of ten zero-emission battery electric buses ("Santa Monica City Council Gives Nod to Pilot Project for Sub-Fleet of Electric City Buses," April 24, 2018).

The BBB’s goal is to be at 100 percent zero-emissions within 12 years ("Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus Could Go all Electric by 2030," July 7, 2016).

"BBB has long shared a commitment to finding the most environmentally sustainable vehicles that meet its operational needs," staff wrote in its report to Council.

The Council on Tuesday also approved a $131,500 contract with the Center for Transportation and Excellence (CTE) to help assess the charging equipment and technology.

CTE has been helping more than 50 transit agencies -- including those in Alameda County, Portland and San Diego -- deploy more than 200 zero emission buses.

"The lack of widespread deployments could present challenges for transit agencies unfamiliar with zero-emission technology, as there are specific operating characteristics and fueling requirements associated with its deployment," staff said.

"CTE’s concurrent work with DTS would provide operational strategy, support, and data for replacing the remainder of BBB’s fleet of transit buses with BEB’s at a reduced cost to the City."

BBB operates a fleet of 200 buses, all of them fueled with renewable natural gas. More than 60 percent operate on compressed natural gas.

Although initially costly, electric buses have been found to be less expensive over the long term and provide an environmentally cleaner service, BBB officials said.


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