Capital Metro sets ambitious goal to eventually replace all 423 buses with electric versions

Students at Lee Lewis Campbell Elementary Media and Performing Arts Institute in East Austin point to their classmate holding the red bag, whose artwork is featured on the new electric bus. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Students at Lee Lewis Campbell Elementary Media and Performing Arts Institute in East Austin point to their classmate holding the red bag, whose artwork is featured on the new electric bus. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)

Students at Lee Lewis Campbell Elementary Media and Performing Arts Institute in East Austin point to their classmate holding the red bag, whose artwork is featured on the new electric bus. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
Capital Metro worked with arts-focused nonprofit Creative Action on a contest for students at Lee Lewis Campbell Elementary. Artwork from 23 students appears on the bus wraps for the two new electric buses. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
Twenty-three students at Lee Lewis Campbell Elementary have their artwork featured on the new electric buses Capital Metro is putting into service Jan. 26, 2020. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
On Jan. 26, Capital Metro will put the first two of 10 electric buses purchased this year into service. By 2024, the agency plans to grow that number to 80 electric buses.

The goal, said Dottie Watkins, the transit agency’s chief operating officer and chief customer officer, is to eventually replace all of the agency's 423 diesel buses with a zero-emission version. Each bus costs about $1 million, which includes the battery charger, she said.

"It's just become part of our way of thinking about how we want to power the fleet as we really intend to only buy zero-emission vehicles going forward," Watkins said.

Capital Metro unveiled the first two buses Jan. 22 at Lee Lewis Campbell Elementary Media and Performing Arts Institute in East Austin. The buses feature the artwork of 23 students who won a contest led by arts-focused nonprofit Creative Action. The students’ artwork is featured on the two buses, which will rotate among the agency’s routes, Watkins said. The remaining eight buses from the initial purchase will be in operation by this spring, she said.

This fall, the first phase of the renovation project at the agency’s North Operations facility will be complete and provide additional charging stations for future buses, Watkins said.


Capital Metro President and CEO Randy Clarke said an electrified fleet ties into the agency’s vision for Project Connect, the regional transit plan that includes more high-capacity buses and/or rail.

“We all know climate change is a real threat, and what we’re doing here at Cap Metro is not only this electric program right now, but we also know we have to build a much bigger transit system,” he said. “We need to do that for all the hard-working teachers and faculty of a school like this, the parents. As our city continues to grow and our traffic keeps getting worse, we have to have a more sustainable and better mobility system.”

The electric buses will also provide riders with a smoother and quieter ride, said Ryan Popple, the president and CEO of California-based Proterra, which engineers and manufactures the buses.

He said the electric buses are made from a lightweight carbon composite, similar to material used for the blades of wind turbines, for the exterior of the buses.

Each bus has four 9-by-3-foot batteries that generate 110 kilowatt hours. In total, the batteries weigh 6,000 pounds, he said. The lithium-ion batteries are similar to those found in consumer electronics, he said.

"Sometimes it's not necessarily about inventing the light bulb," he said. "Sometimes it's figuring out how to make a safer, cleaner, better business model for light bulbs. ... We hope that we can be a part of an incredibly energy-efficient, clean, quiet, scaling local transit solution."

These buses use about 2 kilowatt hours per mile, so it is possible for the buses to go up to 165 to 200 miles on a single charge. Popple said the range depends on a variety of factors, such as weather and how a driver operates the bus. Proterra is also providing training to Capital Metro drivers to learn how the buses accelerate and decelerate differently from diesel buses.
SHARE THIS STORY

Amy Denney



MOST RECENT

Austin City Council is poised to make a final vote on the land development code rewrite by early April. (CHRISTOPHER NEELY/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER)
Austin’s eight-year effort to rewrite land code advances to final vote with City Council's second-round approval

A majority of Austin City Council voted in favor of the land development code rewrite, setting the stage for a final vote on a project that has exhausted the community for roughly eight years.

Austin Urgent Care opened in the former space of First Choice Emergency Room. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Locally owned urgent care facility opens on Jollyville Road in Northwest Austin

Austin Urgent Care can treat a variety of illnesses and ailments.

Approximately 40 parents of Round Rock ISD students spoke at a Feb. 13 meeting on proposed boundary changes. (Taylor Jackson Buchanan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Round Rock ISD parents react to proposed boundary changes

Approximately 40 parents of Round Rock ISD students spoke at a Feb. 13 meeting on proposed boundary changes.

Lammes Candies has a shop off Anderson Lane. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lammes Candies celebrates 135 years and 5th anniversary of North Austin shop

Lammes Candies opened its Anderson Lane shop five years ago.

Chinese bubble tea chain opening in Market at Lake Creek in Northwest Austin

This will be the first location for Tsaocaa Tea in Texas.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in San Antonio on Feb. 13. The case is the 15th known COVID-19, commonly referred to in recent weeks as coronavirus, infection in the United States so far. (Courtesy Adobe stock photos)
The first coronavirus case in Texas was just confirmed. Here is what Austinites need to know about the virus

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in San Antonio this morning, according to a news release from the federal agency.

The site of the new Kerbey Lane Cafe on Braker Lane will be next to the post office. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Kerbey Lane Cafe targets late 2020, early 2021 opening for Braker Lane location in North Austin

CEO confirms the city has approved site plans for new restaurant.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler (center), flanked by Assistant City Manager Christopher Shorter and City Attorney Ann Morgan, listen to public testimony on the land development code rewrite Dec. 7. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Tense land development code debate leaves Austin City Council members concerned over tenor of proceedings

Climate change denial and a sweeping compromise proposal highlighted Austin City Council's debate over long-awaited changes to its land development code.

Registered Williamson County residents can cast ballots at any of the 18 early voting polling location in the county. (Beth Marshall/Community Impact Newspaper)
MAP: Early voting locations for the 2020 primaries in Williamson County

Early voting begins Feb. 18. Primary election day is March 3.

Work group members—including Geoffrey Burkhart, Texas Indigent Defense Commission executive director; District Attorney Margaret Moore; County Attorney David Escamilla; County Court-at-Law Judge Elisabeth Earle; and Amanda Woog, Texas Fair Defense Project executive director—recommended a series of bond reforms at a Feb. 11 Travis County Commissioners Court meeting. (Courtesy Travis County)
Travis County group urges bond reforms after settlement in Harris County

Work group members recommended a series of bond reforms at a Feb. 11 Travis County Commissioners Court meeting.

Travis County commissioners approved a request Feb. 11 to decommission 192 jail beds. (Courtesy Travis County Sheriff's Office)
Travis County OKs request to decommission 192 jail beds

Travis County commissioners approved a request from the county sheriff to decommission nearly 200 jail beds.

Back to top