LA's journey to 100% electric bus fleet moves forward with purchase of 25 Proterra buses

Proterra Catalyst electric bus
© Proterra

Los Angeles aims to deploy an all-electric bus fleet by 2030, and has agreed to purchase 25 electric buses from Proterra for delivery in 2019.

Although much of the attention on electric mobility tends to focus on electric cars, powering buses, trucks, and delivery vehicles with electricity could also have a big impact on reducing local air pollution. Even if it's not considered as cool to ride an electric bus than to drive a Tesla, buses are much more efficient in not only the utilization of space on the road, but also in terms of fuel-efficiency (as measured in Person-Miles Per Gallon (PMPG)), so with a switch to electric buses, which are less susceptible to volatile fuel prices and have lower maintenance costs, cities can actually save energy and money while reducing emissions.

Although up-front costs (purchase price) are higher with an electric bus, some studies (PDF) have shown that lower "fuel" and maintenance costs account for a savings of $40,000+ per year, and that these zero emissions vehicles can also provide a "healthcare savings" of some $150,000 per bus because of reduced nitric oxide and particulate matter emissions.

The latest move from the City of Los Angeles, which has already seen regional forays into electrified transit solutions, will see 25 of Proterra's 35-foot Catalyst electric buses go into service for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation in 2019, for an estimated savings of some $11 million over the 12-year lifespan of those vehicles. This is in line with LA's recent decision to sign on to a commitment to only purchase zero-emission buses beginning in 2025, and the 25 new Proterra buses will represent a significant part of the city's current 359-vehicle bus fleet.

According to Proterra, its buses are "far more economical" than conventional ones, with "the potential to achieve over $450,000 in operational savings per vehicle over 12 years" due to lower fuel costs and "significantly lower year-over-year maintenance costs." The purchase of the new Proterra buses is underwritten in part by funding from the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment Grants (Low-No), which is intended "for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses" and their infrastructure.

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