VIA Metropolitan Transit on March 3 announced it was introducing eight all-electric buses as part of its growing sustainable vehicle fleet.

Officials with the public transit agency said each new 40-foot bus has a 38-passenger capacity and can be fully charged in four hours or less. The new buses are nicknamed “Arc” for arc discharge, referencing the electrical breakdown of a gas that produces a prolonged electrical discharge, VIA officials said.

According to VIA, the buses that are designed and manufactured by the California company Gillig were acquired through a federal grant award and delivered in December.

VIA officials said their agency was awarded two competitive Low or No Emission Vehicle Program grants totaling $3.7 million and administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Transit Administration. VIA added $4.26 million toward the purchase of the new buses.

VIA President/CEO Jeffrey Arndt said the launch of the new all-electric buses boosts the agency’s sustainable vehicle profile that also includes nearly 500 buses fueled by compressed natural gas.

Arndt said expanding the number of his organization’s sustainable vehicles will help the agency to reduce overall vehicle emissions as it serves 14 member cities, such as San Antonio and Shavano Park and unincorporated areas of Bexar County, and operates more than 90 routes daily.

“The addition of new all-electric buses keeps VIA moving in the right direction with green technologies that are advancing to a point that makes them practical as well as sustainable,” Arndt said in a statement. “VIA’s [compressed natural gas] fleet conversion delivered up to a 97% reduction of harmful emissions from the vehicles they replaced and put us on the road to a cleaner, greener future.”

According to VIA, implementation of the all-electric buses involved construction of a 12-bay docking area, which houses four charging stations capable of charging two buses each at VIA’s original bus yard at 800 W. Myrtle St. near downtown San Antonio.

VIA officials said their agency is currently testing the new buses and charging systems, and training staff and operators on proper, efficient use of the vehicles.

The organization plans to place two of the buses into service this summer for testing and data collection, which will help the agency determine how it will subsequently deploy the full electric fleet sometime later in 2023, VIA officials said.