Marin Transit is jumping into the next wave of transit vehicle technologies with a pilot project to purchase two zero emission electric buses. This effort coincides with California Air Resources Board’s proposed Advanced Clean Transit rule, aimed at transforming public transit fleets to entirely zero emission vehicles by the year 2040. The pilot will provide an opportunity to test the technology using two 35-foot buses, develop expertise, and inform future investments in battery-powered vehicles. The vehicles will operate on various routes throughout Marin County during the pilot.

The pilot is the result of a multi-agency collaboration. In early 2014, MCE convened a set of meetings with agencies to discuss the possibility of introducing electric buses in Marin. The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM), Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District, and Marin Transit offered multiple skills sets, perspectives, and resources. MCE provided the information needed to understand electrical transmission and rate structures, the transit agencies provided expertise in bus operations, and TAM identified and secured funds for supportive infrastructure.

Marin Transit purchased its first diesel electric hybrid buses in 2010, and currently operates eighteen hybrid buses. An additional ten hybrids will be delivered in 2017. Advances in electric battery, vehicle technologies, and government incentives have led to costs that are now comparable to hybrid buses, and driving ranges that are suitable to a subset of local bus routes.

The selected vehicle manufacturer, BYD, offers a tested slow charge technology, a 12-year battery warranty, and an expectation that the vehicles will be delivered within six to ten months. Slow charging vehicles have a longer range, and typically operate on one battery charge per day. Buses can be charged at the operator’s yards at night rather than requiring specialized fast charge equipment at transit centers or along routes. Barring any existing electrical service contracts at charging locations, the new vehicles will be powered by MCE electricity service.