Capital Metro is taking the first step toward having an emissions-free fleet by launching its first two electric buses the week of Jan. 26.

Over the next five years, the regional transit agency is aiming to purchase 80 electric buses. In 2019, its board of directors approved the purchase of the first 10 of those, including the first two that will start service in late January. Capital Metro has also started construction on expanding its North Operations Facility to include charging stations for its electric buses.

The transit agency started testing different electric buses in August 2018, eventually settling on buses manufactured by California-based Proterra.

According to a Proterra rep, the buses demoed in 2018 could travel a comparable 26 miles per diesel gallon, far more than the 3-4 miles per gallon a traditional diesel-powered bus can get.

Electric buses can take three to six hours to charge and travel up to 175 miles per charge, according to the representative.

At the time the agency anticipated starting to purchase electric buses in fiscal year 2021-22, but in 2019, Capital Metro received two grants to put toward its first purchase of 10 electric buses. These grants include $2.6 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation for a Low or No Emission grant as well as a $1.5 million grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The agency’s board of directors approved the purchase of 10 electric buses for about $11.12 million in April.

“[Electric] is the movement in transit, and there’s no getting around it,” Capital Metro CEO Randy Clarke said at the April meeting.

Under its Project Connect regional transit plan, expanding transit in the Austin area also includes using a fully electric fleet.

To commemorate the arrival of the first two electric buses, Capital Metro worked with arts-based development organization Creative Action to design wraps for the buses. Artwork from students at Austin ISD’s Lewis Campbell Elementary Media and Performing Arts Institute will appear on the buses and be unveiled Jan. 22 at Lewis.