Eight zero-emissions electric buses could hit Jackson streets in a year and a half, if START wins a federal grant.
A Federal Transit Administration grant program allows transit agencies to compete for $84.45 million in funds to lease or purchase low- or no-emissions vehicles. START partnered with battery-powered bus manufacturer Proterra to apply for the funds.
“We are committed to reducing emissions from the transportation sector and improving air quality in the Jackson Hole region, through the introduction of zero-emission electric buses to the START bus fleet,” START’s grant application says.
The buses would support community goals of ecosystem stewardship, according to START, by reducing fuel use and carbon emissions and reducing automobile trips. To emphasize START’s commitment to alternative fuels, the START Board recently passed a resolution that set a goal of a 40 percent electric fleet by 2022.
START Board Chairman Chad Repinski said the resolution aligns with town and county aims.
“It makes sense from an expense and efficiency and pollution standpoint,” Repinski said.
The Proterra electric buses log a 25.8 mpg gasoline equivalent, a vast increase over buses in START’s current diesel fleet, which average 5.8 mpg, the application says.
“This great increase in efficiency will drastically reduce the energy consumption of the START fleet,” the application says.
Replacing eight diesel buses with electric ones could reduce the START fleet’s greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 881 tons per year, the application says.
Proterra vehicles also have lower operating and maintenance costs than typical buses: The company’s vehicles have 30 percent fewer parts and an average lifespan of 12 years. The electric buses recharge from empty to full in two to four hours and can run up to 426 miles on a single charge, according to the manufacturer.
At about $800,000 each, the electric buses cost about twice as much as a $440,000 diesel bus, START Director Darren Brugmann said. The grant would cover about 80 percent of the costs, while local government would cost-share for about 20 percent.
Brugmann said the buses would be able to service both in-town and commuter routes, but would first focus on routes to and from Teton Village.
Park City, Utah, deployed six of the electric buses last year, proving they can withstand freezing winters and climb mountain passes to ski resorts.
One of the Proterra buses arrived in Jackson on Thursday morning for a public demonstration at the START bus barn. It was low to the ground and built from lighter materials than typical buses to offset the batteries’ weight. On the inside, it looks like any other bus — but feels quieter.
Yellowstone-Teton Clean Cities, which focuses on supporting alternative fuels in the region, helped with the grant application. Project Manager Christy Lewis said transit agencies are some of the best candidates for switching over to advanced-technology vehicles.
“One of the best ways to do that is to support fleets, because that’s such a large amount of vehicles to replace all at once,” Lewis said.
START will learn if it has been awarded the grant in the fall. If it receives all eight requested buses to replace existing diesel buses, about a third of its buses would then be electric.
“We’re very anxious and very hopeful to be fully awarded, or even partially,” Brugmann said.