In Effort to Cut Carbon, Vt. Bus Routes Add Electric Vehicles

The E-buses are scheduled to enter service in March

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A pair of new, eye-catching electric vehicles will soon be hitting the streets of Burlington, Vermont.

Green Mountain Transit, the transit authority that carries passengers in Burlington and neighboring communities, announced the arrival of two new buses powered by electricity.

"Our future is at stake," said Sophia Toche, a Burlington High School senior, at a public introduction to the e-buses Tuesday. "For my generation, this is personal."

GMT and state and local leaders unveiled the American-made vehicles at the busing service's headquarters, even providing NECN with an inaugural ride.

The plan is to use the e-buses in the city's urban core, where old buses' fumes and noisy engines are annoying, and where there are more than 60-thousand monthly boardings, according to GMT.

Electrifying the nation's transportation sector is widely seen as critical to addressing climate change, since cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles spew so many greenhouse gases.

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, who recently called for expansions of incentives aimed at encouraging Vermonters to switch to e-vehicles, said it is clear the industry is recognizing the need to change.

"Seeing Ford come out with a 450-horsepower electric Mustang, an electric F-150--Jeep is building a hybrid Wrangler, as well as Harley-Davidson coming out with a whole line of electric motorcycles, so it's clear this transition is happening and it's exciting to see," the governor said.

Federal and state grants and support from GMT's partners enabled the more than $2 million dollar purchase—including the charging equipment.

That price tag is hundreds of thousands of dollars more than two diesel versions would cost, but GMT expects savings on fuel and maintenance over the 12 or 15 years the e-buses will be on the road.

"As the technology develops, we hope and expect the prices will come down," said GMT's interim general manager, Jon Moore, indicating he would like to see continued investments in electrifying the fleet.

It's still a little hard to say how many miles the buses will get per full battery. The exact range will depend on how many stops they take and how hilly the routes are, GMT explained.

However, the manufacturer, Proterra, found in other cities that its buses get 100 miles in the winter and 140 in warmer months, according to information provided by Burlington Electric.

The e-buses will be charged overnight, off-peak, using electricity made from renewable sources, Burlington Electric said.

Because the buses are so big and visible, Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, said he hopes their arrival will help inspire others to move away from fossil fuels to help cut carbon.

Burlington needs to have that happen if it's to meet its goals to largely take carbon out of transportation and other sectors by the year 2030.

"We have a long way to go, this is a big step toward getting there," Weinberger said of the new buses.

Electric buses are also coming to Rutland, Montpelier, and the White River Junction area in the next two years, according to Secretary Joe Flynn of the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

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