University transit services begin to go electric with new buses

The University of Virginia announced today that it is beginning to transition its transit fleet from diesel power to a more sustainable alternative with the purchase of four new battery-electric buses. Delivery of the new zero-emission buses, manufactured by Proterra, is scheduled for summer or fall 2023.

The University Transportation Service, operated by AVU’s Department of Parking and Transportation, currently has approximately 40 buses in its fleet. Parking and Transportation staff began extensive research into electric buses in the fall of 2020. With a 12-15 year life cycle for each bus, the team understood that every future bus purchase would present a opportunity to advance the objectives of the University Sustainability Plan.

UVA’s facilities management department paved the way for electric vehicles in the field. Since 2019, he has been designated with a Sustainable Fleet Accreditation by the National Association of Fleet Administrators and Calstart, becoming the only college fleet in Virginia to earn this designation and one of only six in the nation.

“We are excited to introduce battery electric buses to our University Transit fleet,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jennifer “JJ” Wagner Davis. “The decisions we make every day are important in helping us achieve our long-term sustainability goals. I am grateful to the University’s Sustainability Committee for their forward-thinking approach and to the Parking and Transportation team for their enthusiastic partnership.

Each UTS bus uses approximately 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year. By replacing four diesel buses with battery electric buses, UTS will reduce its carbon emissions by approximately 400 metric tons per year. This is roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of 50 average homes.

“We are thrilled to announce this milestone to help the University achieve its goal of being fossil fuel free by 2050,” said Director of Parking and Transportation Rebecca White. “Transport has a major impact on the environment and health, and the conversion of our bus fleet from diesel to battery electric vehicles will be a major step forward. A big thank you to everyone on the parking and transportation team whose hard work and creative problem solving got us to this point. »

The team consulted with other universities and municipalities that operate battery electric buses to learn more about their experiences before deciding to order UVA’s first four battery electric buses from Proterra. The publicly traded company is currently based in California, but its electric buses are already on the road here in Virginia. AVU staff saw them up close in Alexandria and spoke with transit colleagues about the day-to-day operations of their battery-electric buses.

Melvin Z. Madore