5 years in the making, Metro’s battery-powered-bus test gets up to speed

Your chance to commute via a battery-powered bus like that one is getting closer. At a media event today that otherwise was about its new electric trolley buses, Metro also had an update on the battery-powered-bus test that’s been on the way since a federal $4.7 million grant was announced five years ago:

… Over the next four to six months, Metro will take delivery of three 40-foot prototype heavy-duty battery-electric buses with fast-charging batteries, manufactured with a composite body by Proterra, Inc.

The new 38-seat buses can travel up to 23 miles between charges, and remain on the road up to 24 hours a day. Batteries take 10 minutes or less to charge. The prototype bus is expected to get 15 miles more from an equivalent unit of energy than a diesel-hybrid coach. A battery-charging station has already been set up at the Eastgate Park-and-Ride lot.

Metro will test the performance and efficiency of the new technology for up to a year on local streets and roads, to determine whether battery electric buses can be a future replacement option for Metro. The three prototypes will likely be tested on short routes serving the Eastside and downtown Seattle.

You can read today’s full announcement and see videos on this county webpage. The Proterra website says Metro is one of 10 agencies in 9 states that is, or will be, using its buses.

17 Replies to "5 years in the making, Metro's battery-powered-bus test gets up to speed"

  • Panda August 18, 2015 (11:50 am)

    As a previous environmental marketing strategist for the United States largest exporter (by dollar value) ***free Chipotle (blah) for the first person to guess the company*** I conducted a lot of research on alternative fuels and high efficiency vehicles. You can market the Zero Emissions all you want but to be fair you must also measure the life-cycle impact of the batteries. This includes the mining, production, transporting and ultimately retiring (or recycling) of the extremely heavy and volatile batteries.

    However perhaps all of that is worth the mind blowing 23 miles they will get between charging.
    *rub eyes* did I read that right? 23 Miles?


  • BlairJ August 18, 2015 (12:48 pm)

    … and a composite body no less!

  • Jim P. August 18, 2015 (1:16 pm)

    Hot day, heavy traffic, lots of stop and go, a/c on. Range?

    Battery goes critical in heavy stop-and-go traffic? Procedure?

    Battery performance tends to diminish sharply in very cold weather and very hot weather. Back-up plans?

  • West Seattle Hipster August 18, 2015 (1:28 pm)

    Will they also run red lights like their gas powered counterparts?

  • flynlo August 18, 2015 (2:07 pm)

    How many trips up the Queen Anne Ave hill?
    How many trips up the Admiral Way hill?

  • Fiwa Jcbbb August 18, 2015 (2:34 pm)

    Um….we’ve had electric buses for years. Of course they use overhead wires, which do not contribute at all toward pleasing the aesthetic sensibilities of the wealthy, so by all means, bring on the carbon fiber and batt’ries!Just make sure it’s paid for with property and sales taxes, anything less would be “class warfare”.

  • ChefJoe August 18, 2015 (2:48 pm)

    Jim P, hopefully they designed it with a few batteries held in reserve, should a driver run the main batteries out in stop-and-go while not keeping an eye on the battery.
    It makes me think of the helicopter-to-submarine transfer at sea in The Hunt for Red October….
    – we’ve got a 10 minute reserve, but I’m not allowed to invade that except in a time of war.
    – If you don’t *move that bus* that’s just what we’ll have.

  • Les August 18, 2015 (3:39 pm)

    I clicked on the link to Metro and Proteera and I still don’t know the cost for each bus? What is the cost for each charging station? Is there is more than the Eastlake station currently?

    • WSB August 18, 2015 (3:56 pm)

      Les, this is a testing program that is just getting under way. I published this because it seemed interesting and *potentially* relevant to local transit riders someday – as I wrote in the early going, this was mentioned as part of the introduction of the new “trolley” buses, which are NOT relevant since we don’t have overhead lines around here.
      Re: the cost, I have found multiple references to $800,000 or less, including this Wall Street Journal link: http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2015/06/30/electric-bus-maker-proterra-rides-on-with-55-million

  • M August 18, 2015 (4:07 pm)

    The range might only be 23 miles, but only 10 minutes to charge is pretty impressive.

    How is it they can make a bus-sized battery that charges in 10 minutes but my wafer thin cellphone still takes two hours to charge?

  • Jon Wright August 18, 2015 (4:27 pm)

    Dear Naysayers,
    Perhaps seeing if this model bus can address all the concerns raised (and countless more) is the reason for having a TEST PROGRAM.
    Someone Keeping An Open Mind

  • metrognome August 18, 2015 (5:32 pm)

    the charging station is at Eastgate P&R, not Eastlake. I imagine it is located there so the batteries can be recharged while the driver is also recharging on layover.
    generally, the feds pay 80% of capital purchases such as buses. in Metro’s case, the remaining costs are paid for by a dedicated portion of the sales tax collected in King County. Property taxes are not used. If you check your property tax bill, you will find that a very small portion pays for the Water Taxi.

  • Les August 18, 2015 (6:01 pm)

    metrognome you are correct I read the Seattle Transportation Blog after my comment.

  • gina August 18, 2015 (7:01 pm)

    Would be a logical replacement for the overhead wire trolleys. Can’t be any worse than the poles popping off the wires during rush hours downtown.

  • Julie August 18, 2015 (10:02 pm)

    If they’re quiet, they’re worth a lot.

  • me August 18, 2015 (10:33 pm)

    we need millions of busses! let them displace (many of the) the gas pigs on the road. more busses I say!

  • old timer August 19, 2015 (10:30 pm)

    I wish they’d bring the trolley buses back to West Seattle. They used to look so nice gliding down California Avenue.

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