Jefferson County Transit Authority officials and board members take a close look at one of Proterra's electric buses on Thursday. Jefferson Transit's goal is to eventually have a full fleet of electric buses. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Jefferson Transit officials test drive prospective electric bus

PORT TOWNSEND –– Jefferson County Transit Authority officials were buzzing with excitement after test driving an electric bus around town on Thursday.

Jefferson Transit officials hope to eventually replace all of its diesel buses with a full fleet of electric buses, said Tammi Rubert, general manager.

The public bus service agency has enough funds now to purchase two electric buses, but Rubert said the agency needs to do more investigation before buying any.

“The sooner the better, but we’re going to do our homework and purchasing the right bus for our community,” she said.

Clallam Transit

Clallam Transit also is looking to add electric buses to its fleet.

In May, board members discussed an agency request for two electric buses.

The agency put a hybrid minbus into operation in the Sequim area in April 2012.

Tests bus

Jefferson Transit board members and staff tested an electric bus made by Proterra, which is headquartered in Burlingame, Calif., on Thursday.

The bus ran smoothly throughout one of Jefferson Transit’s routes and made it up a hill keeping a steady 25 miles per hour.

Hills and rural roads are a major concern officials have as they test electric buses, Rubert said.

“I’m absolutely impressed at the distances and the fact the buses can keep up with traffic and go up all our hills,” she said.

“These buses are fully functional and able to tackle all the roads . . . and routes we have.”

Catharine Robinson, Port Townsend councilwoman and vice chair of the Jefferson County Transit Authority board, rode along during the test drive and said it was great.

Cost of bus

Robinson said that she likes the idea of Jefferson Transit moving toward an all-electric fleet, but that the cost is an obvious concern.

The 35-foot electric bus Jefferson Transit would buy from Proterra comes with a $669,000 price tag.

For more money, it can be improved with such upgrades as USB ports, improved indoor lighting and a custom interior.

“Cost is always a factor,” Rubert said.

“The cost continues to go down and it is becoming more and more feasible to have an all-electric fleet.”

To extend the six-year warranty up to 12 years would cost another $50,000. Another $50,000 would extend the warranty to 18 years.

If Jefferson Transit were to purchase another diesel bus, it would cost only about $420,000, staff said.

“It’s going to come down to dollars,” Robinson said. “My desire would be to do electric.”

Last year, Jefferson Transit’s fleet of buses burned up 82,488.6 gallons of diesel fuel.

Jefferson Transit has opened its doors for electric bus companies, like Proterra, to provide presentations and test drives, Rubert said.

Transit officials already had seen an electric bus made by BYD, headquartered in China. They liked that bus too, Rubert said.

BYD already has a contract with the state. Proterra is working on one.

Proterra would not be an option for Jefferson Transit until it secures that contract, Rubert said.

If Jefferson Transit purchased electric buses, the goal would be to have a quick charging station at the Haines Place Park and Ride in Port Townsend and an overnight charging station at the bus depot.

Jefferson Transit has applied for funding for both, Rubert said.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at [email protected]

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