To take advantage of new strides in battery bus technology, Metro Transit is test driving a new Proterra extended range electric battery bus, capable of traveling at least 140 miles on a single charge, and with new flexibility to use a fast charge system or overnight charging. We’re putting it through some initial paces on a short-term basis on our hills, with more testing planned in 2018.Just last week, we surprised transit agency representatives from across North America with the bus at our first ever Zero-Emission Battery Bus showcase (see a video about the showcase).

As part of the showcase, we took this state of the art bus for a test drive across Lake Washington to tour Eastgate Park and Ride, where we charge our existing fleet of three Proterra short range (25 miles), fast charge (10 minutes) buses serving Bellevue.

Our battery bus future (outlined this week by General Manager Rob Gannon in the Seattle Times) requires not only the right bus technology for the job, but reliable power sources to enable fast charging while the bus is in service, or slower charging for a fleet that’s parked overnight. We recognized this need for our own service, and that other transit agencies share the same questions and issues.

Proterra bus charging at Eastgate Park and Ride

That’s why we convened the Zero-Emission Battery Bus showcase: to bring together industry experts and Metro Transit’s own staff, to share what we’ve accomplished, learn what others have achieved, and to discuss the challenges ahead. Leaders from other transit agencies, including New York City Transit, and Translink in Vancouver, B.C. weighed in and helped make this event nationally relevant, intellectually stimulating and their rich knowledge and experience provided inspiration for transit agencies from all across the Pacific Northwest and California.

We’ve committed to buying 120 electric battery buses by 2020, but the mix of fast and slow charge will be decided as we see what the industry can provide and how systems perform, especially 60-foot-long articulated buses, the workhorse of Metro’s fleet.Up next for Metro is delivery of the next batch of eight fast-charge Proterra battery electric buses, which will head into service in late 2017. For the following order toward our 120 bus commitment, we are considering the new extended range buses, currently in test-drive mode at Metro Transit. If testing goes well with the extended range buses, this bus type could make up the next order of 12 Proterra buses. Metro is committed to choosing the best bus for the job, most closely meeting our operational needs, helping us achieve our climate goals, and improving air quality in King County.

In 2018, we’ll also be pitting the performance of five different battery buses and charging systems against one another in a pilot project at our South Base in Tukwila. We’re planning to test drive buses from BYD, New Flyer and Proterra manufacturers through all four seasons and measure their performance.  The results will help inform our future battery electric bus purchase decisions.