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Mass transit goes green

It is predicted that the buses will eliminate a projected 244,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emission each year

One of the new electric buses that will run on the DC Circulator System
One of the new electric buses that will run on the DC Circulator System

Global engineering, construction and consultancy company, Black & Veatch, has completed the charging station infrastructure that powers Washington DC’s new electrified mass transit project.


Fourteen Proterra Catalyst E2 electric buses will run on the Washington DC Circulator System each with a Proterra-provided 50kw charger installed by Black & Veatch along with the related infrastructure. Powered entirely by high-capacity batteries, the buses benefit riders and non-riders alike by eliminating a projected 244,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emission each year.


The District’s electric bus roll-out will make it the largest electric bus fleet in the DC region, the current largest electric fleet on the East Coast, and one of the largest electric bus fleets nationwide. DC Circulator is also the first in Washington to offer free onboard wi-fi on all its New Flyer vehicles and the Proterra E2 Catalyst electric buses.


Black & Veatch points out that there is also a bonus for taxpayers as well as riders: the 14 EV buses will cut the fleet’s fuel and maintenance bills by more than $6 million over the transit vehicles’ typical 12-year life cycle, while displacing nearly 90,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually.


US cities purchase an estimated 5,000 public transit buses each year, and due to the benefits city officials increasingly are prioritising electrification of their mass transit offerings. Some 850 municipal electric buses are on order across the country, and there are active proposals for hundreds more.


Seattle will roll out 120 new electric buses by 2020, for instance, while Los Angeles is buying 95 electric buses for $138 million, a tenet of that city’s quest to replace its 2,300-bus fleet with EVs by 2030.


As industry leaders gather this week in Long Beach, California, for the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo summit, infrastructure solutions like the one being deployed in the nation’s capital are crucial to meeting rising demands for electric vehicles.


Success of these projects requires deep collaboration across all stakeholders including transit agencies, utilities, permitting authorities, charging technology providers, engineering and construction services. Each project in the built environment brings unique challenges and adds to lessons learned to the benefit of the next transit electrification phases.


According to Black & Veatch’s 2018 Strategic Directions: Smart Cities & Utilities Report survey, more than half of smart services providers said the need for charging infrastructure -- both via depots and on-route -- was the most prohibitive barrier to large-scale electric fleet adoption. The Washington DC project, and others underway, demonstrates that electric buses have lower maintenance costs than their diesel or hybrid counterparts and could change minds about cost.


Not long ago, electric buses that were priced at about $1 million apiece have dropped to around $750,000, with upfront cost parity when considering total cost of operation. As demand and production volume increase, economies of scale will widen that gap in favour of electrification.


“With the arrival electrified transit, public transit agencies and utilities must work in concert to develop infrastructure roadmaps that guide them beyond early pilots toward mass deployment. Each system is different and will seek to optimise the best combinations of on-route and depot charging technologies,” said Paul Stith, director of strategy and innovation for Black & Veatch’s Transformative Technologies business and an expert in sustainable transportation and energy storage solutions.


“Partnering with an organisation with deep EV infrastructure and utility experience like Black & Veatch will ensure infrastructure won’t hold back aggressive EV adoption.”


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