Charged’s hometown of St Petersburg has become the second city in Florida to begin electrifying its bus fleet (Tallahassee’s StarMetro operates five Proterra e-buses). After two years of deliberation, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), which serves the St Pete/Clearwater metro area, has decided to buy two BYD electric buses.
The e-buses will serve Beach Drive, a restaurant and shopping street at the heart of “The Burg’s” trendy downtown region, which is renowned not only for its lovely waterfront parks, but also for the difficulty of finding a place to park. Electric bus service could begin as early as January, 2018.
EVs Charging on Beach Drive in Saint Petersburg, Florida.
The PSTA’s decision is in large part due to the efforts of the local chapter of the Sierra Club, a tireless advocate of EVs and renewable energy. Sierra Club activists attended local government meetings to speak in favor of electric buses, and the organization provided PSTA with up-to-date information and helped to set up meetings with vendors. The PSTA board considered several manufacturers, including New Flyer and Proterra, and was treated to no less than six product demonstrations.
According to the Sierra Club, almost all of the three dozen or so US transit agencies upgrading to electric buses have financed the purchases with federal grants. PSTA was fortunate to be able to tap a fund established by BP as restitution for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Pinellas County Commission allocated $589,000 from this fund to PSTA to pay for a BYD inductive charging system. This will allow the agency to gradually add more e-buses, with no additional cost for charging infrastructure. The buses themselves will cost $840,000 each, about double the up-front cost of legacy diesels.
“Downtown St Pete’s busy streets are a great place for PSTA to begin electric bus service,” said Sierra Club Senior Organizing Representative Phil Compton. “These buses don’t have tailpipes, and today the electricity they use creates just 20% of the carbon emitted by any new diesel or natural gas bus. That percentage will steadily decline towards zero for electric buses as we add more solar to the grid, while all other types of buses stay just as dirty as they are today.”
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Source: Sierra Club