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Columbus Phases Out Diesel, Begins Running Electric Buses

The Central Ohio Transit Authority will stop running diesel-powered buses by 2025 and will implement eight more electric buses next summer. There are approximately 700 electric transit vehicles currently operating in the U.S.

(TNS) — Some Central Ohio Transit Authority riders may find themselves boarding an electric bus next week as the transit agency moves forward with plans to phase out its diesel bus fleet in the next four years.

On Monday, COTA is expected to begin running two electric buses that will be the first in a planned fleet of 10 such vehicles on Columbus roadways in the near future. The two vehicles, which will run on several routes daily, are part of the transit authority's plan to remove all of its diesel vehicles by 2025, said Joanna M. Pinkerton, COTA president and CEO.

"This is an integral part of COTA's ongoing evolution of our fleet to ensure we are doing all we can to serve our communities and deliver environmentally responsible transportation solutions that will contribute to the health and prosperity of our neighborhoods," Pinkerton said in a written statement.

Eight more of the electric buses — all manufactured by New Flyer, a Canadian-headquartered bus manufacturer owned by NFI Group with plants in Canada and the United States —will be added in summer 2022 after COTA's board approved the purchase in September.

Each electric bus costs $962,172, said COTA spokesman Jeff Pullin, who added that a savings of about $125,000 in maintenance costs and $400,000 in fuel costs is anticipated throughout the 12-year lifespan of each vehicle.

Additionally, the transit authority plans to purchase 28 compressed natural gas vehicles from New Flyer each year until 2025, when its remaining 79 diesel transit vehicles will be retired. A total of 234 compressed natural gas vehicles already comprise COTA's fleet, as well as six diesel-electric hybrids.

Asked about how the price of the electric buses compared to the diesel buses COTA is replacing, Pullin said those prices would be a decade old.

"That answer would be a little misleading - because we haven't purchased diesel vehicles in many years," Pulin said.

The new electric vehicles seat approximately 40 people and, as has become standard in COTA's fleet, come equipped with on-board WiFi and USB charging ports for each seat, Pullin said.

The rollout of the electric buses will join approximately 700 electric transit vehicles currently in service in the United States, a number that's expected to soar in the next 25 years to about 70,000 as technology and infrastructure improve across the country, according to a 2019 report created by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Environment America Research & Policy Center, and the Frontier Group.

The electric vehicles underwent testing at both the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty in Logan County, as well as at the Ohio State University Center for Automotive Research. Testing results indicated that the electric buses are capable of traveling more than 150 miles on one charge.

The vehicles were also tested for obstacle avoidance, braking performance, interior and exterior noise measurement, energy economy and energy consumption and dynamometer-based tests, which allow for the performance testing of acceleration, gradeability and top speed of the vehicles while stationary.

©2021 www.dispatch.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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