Electric START bus demonstration

A Proterra electric bus drives the START red line route to Teton Village during a demonstration in February. START will replace eight vehicles in its diesel fleet with this kind of bus.

Expect to see electric buses on Teton County roads by early 2020. Elected officials OK’d a contract to buy eight battery-powered vehicles and nine chargers for about $5.6 million. They should arrive sometime in the first quarter of 2020.

They will replace part of START’s diesel fleet, allowing the transit agency to cut back on carbon emissions.

“The community has set a vision for the transportation system that ensures the preservation of the area’s natural resources and in turn benefits the economic health of the entire region,” said a report to elected officials on the purchase.

The buses come from Proterra, which on its website claims to be “revolutionizing transit with America’s most popular electric bus.” The company has produced public transportation for cities from Los Angeles to Dallas to Washington, D.C., as well as other resort towns like Breckenridge, Colorado, and Park City, Utah.

Last winter representatives from Proterra brought one of the buses to Jackson to give START’s drivers and mechanics a chance to get acquainted. Alan Westenkow, director of business development, said at the time that they had tailored it to the wintry conditions it would operate under in Teton County.

“It’s been designed to meet the routes of Jackson,” he said.

Their heavy batteries are set low, lowering the center of gravity, which aids in stability on snowy roads. A heating system built for cold climates takes strain off the batteries, which have a range of about 200 miles — more than enough for a day of shuttling back and forth to Teton Village. The battery charges in four hours.

START is buying the buses with a $2.3 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, $1.8 million comes from a separate Federal Transit Administration grant, and nearly $500,000 from WYDOT. The remaining $1 million comes from collections from the 2010 specific purpose excise tax.

Contact Cody Cottier at 732-5911 or town@jhnewsandguide.com.

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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