State gets $2.6M to buy new electric buses

DOVER — For those looking for a more efficient and more environmentally conscious way to get around the state the Delaware Department of Transportation and DART First State have one strong recommendation: Get on the bus.

Gov. John Carney, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan joined together at the DART Administration Building at 900 Public Safety Boulevard in Dover on Tuesday to announce a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration to Delaware Transit Corporation. The money will be used to purchase or lease zero-emission and low-emission transit buses.

This is the third competitive grant from the Low- or No-Emission Bus and Bus Facilities grant program that Delaware has received for electric transit buses and associated charging systems.

In total, Delaware Transit Corporation has received $5.6 million and plans to have 20 electric buses operating statewide by the beginning of 2021.
The state is already operating six electric buses in Kent County.

“DART is really embracing change and innovation which is so critically important today,” Gov. Carney said. “We need to make progress on the transportation side. The secretary (Mrs. Cohan) and I have talked about things that we can do at DelDOT and at DART to have a transportation system that reduces the carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere and that’s cleaner and healthier for the people of our state. This is one step.

“What we’re doing here is celebrating the federal money that makes these electric buses possible. I think we’re up to about $5.6 million. These purchases would not happen, or it would be much more difficult for it to happen, without that federal support.”

Mrs. Cohan said transitioning the state’s inventory of transit buses from diesel to electric just makes good business sense.
“I’m the type of person that I buy a vehicle and I keep it forever,” Mrs. Cohan said. “When I get a new one with the bells and whistles on it, I’m like,

‘Wow! Why did I wait so long?’ It’s the same thing when you look at some of our existing 40-foot vehicle buses and then you look at (electric, low-emissions buses) and you truly, truly get what you pay for.
“This grant will bring our total electric bus inventory up to 20, so we’re well on our way to fully transitioning our buses in the state.”

She added, “DART is trying to plan for their future of transportation, and not just on our large buses, but we’re about 80 percent through with our small paratransit buses as well.”

Gov. John Carney pushes Pedro Toala up the ramp on a new DART electric powered bus.

Sen. Carper got an up-close and personal look inside one of the electric buses on Tuesday and was quite impressed, especially with the easier access wheelchair access that the new buses will all be equipped with.

“The greatest source of carbon emissions in our planet and in our country are our mobile sources,” said Sen. Carper. “The good news is we build vehicles like this and there’s a great utilization for them.
“They are far more efficient, they’re fun to drive, they’re fun to ride in, they’re quieter and we put a lot of people to work building buses just like this and they last forever.”

The buses have a range of up to 150 to 200 miles on a single charge. Along with fast charging stations that are strategically placed throughout the state, buses can be recharged allowing them to run virtually all day.

Officials added that battery-electric buses are also much quieter than diesel buses. They average 17.5 miles per gallon equivalent vs. diesel buses at 4.0 miles per gallon, plus the lifetime (12-year) energy costs are $81,000 compared to $378,000 for diesel. Cost savings are also anticipated with the elimination of engine and exhaust-related maintenance.

Four of the new buses expected to be arriving by 2021 will be 100 percent electric, manufactured by Gillig.
“This is something that touches all of us — our environment,” Rep. Blunt Rochester said, “and whether we keep it healthy, safe or beautiful. The governor gave a quote that he remembered about ‘Think globally and act locally.’ When I was coming up in the 1970s, we had a saying, too, ‘Give a hoot, don’t pollute.’

“I think that’s really what this is about. It is about us caring. It is about us being partners and coming together to really save and enhance our quality of life.”

John Sisson, the CEO of Delaware Transit Corporation, sees the electric buses nearly every day. He said they are a great source of pride for DART First State and its employees.

“There’s been no hesitation whatsoever to roll this new technology out to our customers and it’s been amazing,” Mr. Sisson said. “They’re running around with no issues whatsoever. One of these buses is four to five times more energy efficient than a traditional diesel bus.

“Public transit has always been an economical and environmentally friendly way to get people to work, medical appointments, shop, eat and play. Zero-emission electric buses take us a step further in providing a greener, more cost-effective way to deliver our

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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