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Utah Transit Authority eyeing electric bus options

Published: Monday, July 28 2014 5:45 p.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, July 29 2014 8:22 a.m. MDT

Proterra founder Dale Hill, right, talks about the high-voltage system with Gregg Larsen of UTA, center, and Bobby Frost of Proterra as the Utah Transit Authority is given a demonstration of a Proterra battery electric bus in Salt Lake City, Monday, July 28, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Transit Authority got a firsthand look Monday at one of the latest all-electric mass transit vehicles.

UTA is examining the bus and its charging technology manufactured by South Carolina-based Proterra Inc. for possible future use.

Executives with Proterra demonstrated the company's second-generation, 40-foot, zero-emission battery electric bus Monday. The vehicle uses technology that allows it to run 24 hours a day without refueling, eliminating all liquid fuel and tailpipe emissions.

When deployed for mass transit use, the bus uses an automated charging system during layovers at the end of routes.

The bus is constructed of composite materials and a 100 percent electric battery engine, with a 220 kilowatt magnetic drive motor and a two-speed automatic transmission.

Proterra officials say the vehicle delivers the equivalent of nearly 21 miles per gallon during normal transit operations.

The initial cost of the bus is about $825,000, said Matt Horton, Proterra vice president of sales. The company currently has about 50 of its electric buses in use in mass transit fleets in cities around the country, he said.

In Utah, the only other mass transit entity that has an all-electric bus is the University of Utah's Commuter Services Department, which has one made by a different manufacturer.

Alma Allred, director of commuter services at the U., said the vehicle has been a valuable addition to its fleet, though the high initial cost has prevented the department from adding more as they evaluate the long-term operating expense.

As for UTA, agency officials said they have not made any purchasing commitments at this time and they're looking at several electric buses from various manufacturers.

UTA has more than 600 buses in its fleet, including 24 compressed natural gas buses, with as many as 20 more to be added in the next year, explained Steve Meyer, the transit agency's chief capital development officer.

Meyer said UTA is working to determine routes that would be best suited for electric vehicles, but there is no timetable for adding any to the fleet.

"We are going to continue evaluate (the options)," he said.

E-mail: jlee@deseretnews.com

Twitter: JasenLee1

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