Last year Metro won a $4.7 million federal TIGGER grant to purchase two Proterra battery-operated buses and two charging stations. Last week Metro finished installing and began testing a fast charger at Eastgate Transit Center. Currently a Proterra factory unit is being used (not the one that visited earlier this year) but later three different vehicles will be delivered. Metro originally intended to purchase two charging stations but decided against a second station and instead applied that funding toward the purchase of a third bus. The first vehicle is expected to be delivered this fall with the other two coming later in the fall.

Proterra Testing

The vehicles won’t go in to revenue service for quite some time; initial testing will last a few weeks after arrival and more in-depth testing will occur for up to a year for Metro to determine how they perform in Metro’s service area. This data will be used to decide how they might fit in with their future fleet plans. While no final decisions have been as to what routes will see some electric action, routes 226 and 241 are the most likely candidates. They are interlined on an 18.25 mile route and terminate at Eastgate TC. If the buses are able to go the distance, 221 and 248 are other possibilities since they both have layovers (in one direction) at Eastgate TC. During the testing period, the vehicles will likely be placed on a variety of routes to gather as much performance data as possible. While the exact numbers will depend on the batteries’ state of charge, Metro’s contract stipulates that the vehicle will need to be able to charge in 10 minutes or less and be able to maintain a 23 mile service route off that charge, and Proterra has been able to meet that requirement.

This project is more of a R&D project for Metro than a rush to put new technology in to revenue service. Metro is using it to determine whether or not battery technology could be used on replacement 40′ buses. A PowerPoint presentation from Metro’s vehicle maintenance outlines the goals and some of the construction of the vehicle. An interesting note is that BYD and New Flyer also bid on the contract (Design Line, E-Bus, Nova, and Skoda dropped out).

A few photos of the testing can be found here.

40 Replies to “Metro’s Battery Proterra Bus Begins Testing”

  1. Since they bought only one fast charger and installed it at a P&R, these can presumably be slow-charged back at the base?

      1. And cost more than 10 times as much, and cost more than 10 times as much to build the fuelling station, and cost at least 4 times as much in fuel, Bailo.

        Anyway, there are now three major battery-electric bus companies making production models of battery-electric buses: Proterra, BYD, and New Flyer. I’m pleased to see that all three of them bid on this contract. I think the competition is going to drive electric bus prices down, too.

      2. In the Northwest electricity has low net polluton and low cost. Other sources including hydrogen lose out. Hydrogen is the least efficient source there is.

  2. Route 248 doesn’t go anywhere near Eastgate; are you talking about the 245 (about 30 miles round-trip)?

    1. On the surface, this looks very huge – all the benefit of trolley buses, without the hassle and expense of dealing with trolley wire.

      Are the battery buses powerful enough to drive on the freeway, or are they speed-limited, like our trolley buses, to 30 mph?

    2. Route 248 doesn’t go anywhere near Eastgate; are you talking about the 245 (about 30 miles round-trip)?

      See slide 5 of the linked presentation

      1. So, they’re talking about potentially putting a new charger in Redmond TC and operating the 248 out of there? I’d be highly opposed to that. The 248 runs more or less in a straight line; we shouldn’t introduce layovers midway through its route.

  3. I’m suspicious of Proterra. I mean, I hope it goes well, but….

    The New Flyer and BYD battery models have been proven extensively in revenue service. Metro should simply be buying battery buses for its next major procurement, but I’d design the specs to encourage the BYD and New Flyer bids, not the Proterra bid.

    1. Was this technology bought without looking at competing technologies like fuel cells?

      How many vendors were rated.

      The Federal Government is sponsoring several Hydrogen Bus projects…is anyone in WA State working with them to set up a program?

      1. It seems that despite all evidence that shows the inefficiencies and problems with hydrogen fuel cells, there is still someone who keeps flogging that dead horse.

        The only potential advantage of hydrogen is fast refueling. However, it must be noted that the expense to build a hydrogen refueling station that will generate enough hydrogen to refuel will cost a few million dollars, require a large space for tanks, compressors and other equipment, and a huge maintenance program because hydrogen embrittles metal piping.

        Contrast that with an fast electric charger which costs less than $250K, needs much less maintenance than a hydrogen refueling depot and works with a large capacity battery on-board the bus allowing it to cover the route, and the arguments to go hydrogen go away.

        For a practical example, look to the North in Vancouver. They are getting rid of the 20 or so hydrogen busses that they got for the Olympics because they are not cost-effective to operate. They trucked the hydrogen from Quebec to Vancouver.

    2. Why?

      Proterras have been running in revenue service for about 5 years down in Southern California on Foothill Transit Line 291. I’ve ridden them. They’re nice and quiet. The first generation had issues but they got 2nd generation buses now.

      1. Yeah, you’re right I just rechecked my research and Proterra electric buses seem to have developed a solid record over the last 5 years, primarily on Foothill Transit.

        I guess I’m a bit worried because of Proterra’s capital level that they might go bust.

        But anyway, that’s three solid bidders (Proterra, BYD, New Flyer) for any electric bus contract then. Good.

        It’s time to stop buying fuel buses.

    3. Incorrect. Its Proterra that has been extensively tested in the US–with at least a 2 year advantage over BYD and more than that over New Flyer.
      New Flyer has all of 2 battery buses delivered in the US–at CTA. In Canada, I believe they have delivered 2.
      Proterra has delivered more than 50 buses–starting in 2011 or so.
      As for BYD, check out and compare the BYD test results to Proterra.

      1. Just to clarify, my post above is in response to Nathanael claiming that BYD and New Flyer have better battery bus track records,

        And to correct myself, New Flyer has delivered 4 battery buses in Canada–not just two.
        The New Flyers at CTA are slow charge models while I believe all of the 4 New Flyers at Winnipeg Transit in Canada have fast-charge capable batteries. Its worth noting that they are copying the Proterra approach with fast-charging. (Proterra also now offers an extended range battery option and have claimed they can get up to 200 miles between charges)

      2. Yeah, you’re right, I corrected myself.

        I will say that I’ve ridden the New Flyer electric buses at the CTA and they’re really sweet. The Winnipeg buses are apparently operating with a perfect track record so far.

        I’m just glad there are three reliable bidders now.

  4. I wish they would test models from several manufacturers. They have different approaches to the tech and that could make an impact when applied in our topography. Proterra keeps the vehicle lighter with less battery storage and likely uses less total energy, but the resulting short range requires fast charging in the field several times during a vehicle block. BYD puts on enough battery to go all day and charges at the base overnight, but it’s charges take a long time. Haven’t been on the Proterra yet, but I’m looking forward to it. I rode the BYD when Bellingham had them out to demo. The construction was a bit flimsy and felt less secure than what I’m accustomed to. That’s probably a result of trying to shave weight, but I would recommend reviewing some crash test data before buying. Also, for an electric vehicle, I was shocked how loud it could be at times. That said, it ran perfectly well up to highway speeds and on steep hills. I’m not familiar with the New Flyer or other models.
    I’m not aware of any way in which the technology is not capable of meeting operational requirements, so I would expect that all fleets (with intelligent management) will begin electrifying to some degree within the next decade. It may take a while to transition, but there is no reason to remain dependent on oil. An electric fleet would actually be capable of providing relief when gas prices rise again, because the transit agencies wouldn’t be hit with higher fuel costs at the very moment when lots of new riders are passionately demanding more service.
    Does anyone know if they are testing these with all the APTS tech turned on? How about video cameras, A/C, lights and wipers on all night long….? Auxiliary systems can draw a fair amount of power.

    1. Metro gets fuel on a contract. They pay a flat price per gallon for a specified duration of time, thus making them immune to fluctuations in price.

      1. That’s a bit simplistic. It may protect them from price fluctuations for the duration of the contract, but does not in the long-run. Of course, the flip side of the equation is that when prices fall (as they have in the last year), they’re still locked into the higher price.

    2. New Flyer has large batteries and fast charging. I rode on one in Chicago. They’re very quiet and have an extremely smooth ride on very bad pavement. (I haven’t seen any photos of the charging in Chicago — it’s easy enough to find photos of the New Flyer overhead fast chargers in Winnipeg.)

      The main oddity of the New Flyer is an optional propane *heating system*, in order to maintain termperature in the winter.

      1. So there’s something odd about the Metro PowerPoint presentation; they act as if New Flyer doesn’t have fast charging available. Which New Flyer *does* have available. Is Proterra’s charger even faster? It would be good to put some numbers on these charging speeds.

        I think New Flyer is the only company which offers a hybrid trolleybus / battery bus option, which would be particuarly useful for Seattle.

    1. The article quotes professors on the technology rather than salespeople on prices and availability. That’s why real-world agencies today are testing battery vehicles instead of hydrogen ones.

      I don’t have anything against hydrogen in the abstract, as a subject for R&D. There certainly are some potential advantages over batteries. The role of a real-world agency in testing comes when a system is ready to install essentially “off the shelf”. A real-world agency is in a great position to test claims about vehicle performance, reliability, and maintenance costs in real-world conditions. It isn’t in a great position to do speculative research.

    2. Mods, can we just declare hydrogen fuelling off-topic? This topic has been beaten to death with extensive citations. but Bailo won’t let it go.

      1. I suggest again that Bailo write a post about hydrogen-fueled buses on Page 2, where it would be eminently on-topic. I would love to read that post.

  5. Now if we could just figure out a way to piss into one of Johns fuel cells and make electricity, we could fast charge the bus for the next run.
    Homework Assignment: Work on that John, and report back to us only when complete.

  6. What are the axle loads on a fully-loaded (fully standing load) electric bus? Metro has had an unfortunate history with overweight buses.

    1. You can probably look ’em up. It’s suspension-dependent, so really nothing to do with the battery-electric design at all; they can always be ordered with beefier suspensions.

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