Spokane Transit Authority’s electric buses hit the roads

SPOKANE, Wash.– You may have seen the two electric buses in service cruising around parts of Spokane this week– but you probably didn’t hear them.

That’s because electric buses aren’t only good for the environment, but are also much quieter.

Now, Spokane Transit Authority’s fleet of two is hitting the streets. It can get a charge at the Moran Station on the South Hill before heading across town to the 5-Mile Park-and-Ride.

STA’s director of communications, Brandon Rapez-Betty, said they took the plunge for the longest cross-country route connecting both sides of the city for good reason.

“It provides the best opportunity for testing. It’s hilly, so we come up to the upper South Hill and then it has to go up the North Bank on the Northside, which is great for wintertime testing, to see how they perform on the winter roads,” Rapez-Betty said.

Right now, the buses are only running through the morning, following their overnight charge. However, those routes will expand with time.

Rapez-Betty said the zero-emission buses are an important part of what STA is doing as an agency. He said there is legislation at the state level that is indicating that this is an inevitable outcome. So, they’re trying to meet that need.

When it comes to cost, things can get expensive up-front, but it will all pay off down the road. For now, STA relies on grants to help it get where it needs to be.

“The maintenance of the battery electric vehicle is actually one of the reasons why the industry is moving in that direction because the maintenance is more affordable than a diesel bus,” said Rapez-Betty.

The lifetime savings works out to be about $168,000.

“It’s been a lot of work over the last few years. We’ve talked SO much about electric buses and to know that we have customers on them right now is just really exciting,” Rapez-Betty said.

There are two of the buses on the roads right now. That’s expected to grow. There are two more being licensed and commissioned. They are expected to be on the road within a few months.  Through the process, STA is testing out two different companies. That will give them the best opportunity to be deliberate in which company they move forward with in the long run.

“The feedback we’re getting is really great. We’re excited to finally deliver this to customers,” Rapez-Betty said.

STA hopes to have 38 electric buses in-service within the next three to four years.

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