Mountain Rides is planning to electrify about a quarter of its fleet by spring 2021, Executive Director Wally Morgus said Wednesday.
With zero tailpipe emissions, the buses—priced around $750,000 each—will stop periodically along their routes to recharge.
While e-buses require higher upfront costs than standard diesel buses, Morgus said they will offer significant financial and environmental returns over the next decade. He added that a partnership with Idaho Power will be key in installing charging stations throughout the valley.
“The critical piece on our timeline is getting charging infrastructure put into place—we’re working with Idaho Power on getting the capacity for facilities in Bellevue and Ketchum, which will accommodate two [electric] buses on the Valley route and two on the Blue route,” he said.
Mountain Rides’ e-bus plan mirrors a nationwide push for cleaner energy. California recently passed a law to ensure that all its buses are zero-emission by 2040, and several cities, like Louisville, Ky., have already electrified their entire transit fleets.
The switchover will also support the goals of Hailey’s new Resiliency Committee, assembled this summer to help fight climate change, and Ketchum’s 2007 sign-on to Local Governments for Sustainability’s Cities for Climate Protection Campaign.
Morgus said funding for the e-buses and charging stations will largely come from federal grants and settlement money from Volkswagen’s emissions scandal. (In 2015, the German automaker was ordered to provide $2.9 billion in state funding for cheating on emissions tests.)
“Though a very small slice of our funding, the VW agreement will help finance the first set of buses,” he said.
When asked about the current state of Mountain Rides’ fleet of 16 diesel buses, Transit Operations Director Ben Varner said five are currently outside their useful life.
That means regular mainten-
ance at a quicker interval, he said.
Varner added that the e-buses are the next step in Mountain Rides’ commitment to cleaner energy solutions, as the company has already installed solar-powered lights at most bus stops.
“Instead of high-end, $1,500 lights that can be vandalized, we use $40 solar-powered lights from Amazon, which last about two to three years,” he said.
According to a recent Union of Concerned Scientists study, battery-electric buses in California had 70 percent lower global-warming emissions than buses powered by diesel or natural gas.
The 2018 study also showed that an electric bus has the equivalent emissions of a diesel bus that gets 12 miles per gallon—2.5 times better than an actual diesel bus, which gets 4.8 miles per gallon.
Morgus said Mountain Rides’ fiscal 2020 budget of $1,419,700 reflects an increase from fiscal 2019 to accommodate the new buses.
“You’ll see that our budget is quite a bit bigger for this coming year, and that’s largely due to the capital purchases we’ll need to make in the future,” he said.