If you’ve noticed a neon green or purple bus on the Strip or in downtown Las Vegas… no, we are not re-wrapping our buses. They’re actually electric buses!
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) partnered with two e-bus manufacturers to test their vehicles on our routes for two weeks this summer. E-buses from New Flyer and Proterra operated for several days on the Strip and Downtown Express (SDX) route.
The RTC doesn’t have e-buses in its fleet yet but through this pilot program will study the feasibility of incorporating this electrifying idea into its system. This means closely monitoring the average range, charging needs, and analyzing which routes best support e-bus transit. Southern Nevada’s unique desert climate requires constant air conditioning in the summertime, which affects the battery life per charge.
Both buses performed well during the pilot, traveling about 77 miles per day. All systems were operational and the air conditioning maintained a comfortable level between 74 to 78 degrees for passengers.
While the buses performed well, we recognize there are some hurdles we face. The RTC would need e-buses with a range of 250 miles or more to maintain current operations and service. An e-bus with a 120-mile range and a recharge time of six hours would be hard to incorporate under current operational demands.
E-buses are also quite expensive. It would cost the RTC approximately $1 million per vehicle, not including charging equipment and infrastructure. That’s almost double the cost of buying a natural gas bus. We’re currently looking into purchasing two e-buses and incorporating them into our fleet by the end of 2020.
Despite the current challenges, the RTC is aware e-bus technology is improving and we’re excited to continue exploring environmentally friendly options.
As part of our efforts to be responsible community partners, the RTC is making investments to reduce our carbon footprint. Since 2007, the agency has been transitioning its fleet from diesel-fueled buses to ones powered by a more environmentally friendly fuel, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). By the end of this year, 71% of RTC’s more than 700 buses will run on CNG. By 2023, the RTC plans to power nearly 100% of its entire fleet with CNG.
Stay tuned for updates on our e-bus pilot program!