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Two out of an order of 10 all-electric buses have been received by the city of Porterville at a cost of about $820,000 each.

published on March 16, 2018 - 4:57 PM
Written by David Castellon

Porterville is a step closer to becoming one the first U.S. cities with a primary fleet of all-electric commuter buses.

On Wednesday, the city made its payment on the first two of 10 38-passsenger buses ordered from GreenPower Motor Co., which did the final assembly of the buses at its temporary manufacturing facility within two large hangars at the Porterville Municipal Airport.

Portions of the assembly also occurred in Taiwan and China.

The Canadian-based electric bus manufacturer is in the process of building a 125,000-square-foot factory across the street from the Porterville airport, where it plans to fully assemble up to 150 buses a year. And depending on how many bus orders go through in the coming years, the factory could expand up to 300,000 square feet and double its rate of bus production, said Brendan Riley, GreenPower’s president.

Porterville actually took possession of the two $822,000 buses on March 8, but the cost isn’t coming from city coffers. Instead the purchases are fully funded through $9.5 million in grants from the California Air Resources Board, which besides paying for the 10 buses also will cover the purchase and installation of 11 charging stations for them.

“Funding for this project is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities. The cap-and-trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution,” Leslie Goodbody, an engineer for the Air Resources Board, said in a written statement.

Porterville Transit Manager Richard Tree said one of the charging stations will be installed at the Porterville Transit Center, while the rest will be installed at the city maintenance yard, where most city buses are parked overnight.

For this order, GreenPower enlarged the batteries from the normal size of its EV 350 buses, extending their capacities to 400 kilowatt hours from 320 and the buses’ driving range to 250 miles on a single charge.

Riley said the Porterville buses will travel up to 230 miles a day on their routes, so they shouldn’t have to recharge until they’re finished for the day, eliminating the need to swap out buses to charge them during the day.

Though the city has the two of the new buses, Tree said they may not be put into service for another 45 days, as Porterville Transit logos still need to be adhered to them, while GreenPower will help the city conduct field tests and train transit drivers on the new buses.

Once they’re on the road, two diesel buses will be retired, and the Porterville’s 16 compressed natural gas-powered buses will continue to be used while they’re retired at a slower rate through 2029, said Tree, adding that once all the GreenPower buses are delivered, they will be the primary buses working city bus routes.

Riley said GreenPower will make another bus it owns available to Porterville on occasions when the city needs it.

As for the rest of Porterville’s bus order, Riley noted that the first two buses took six months to build, and the next three are expected to be ready in May, while the remaining five could be ready in mid summer.

As for the new GreenPower factory, he said the initial facility could be finished by the end of summer.


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