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LA county transit agency orders US first all-electric double-decker bus

Enlarge / This electric double-decker bus from Alexander Dennis and Proterra will be put into service with Foothills Transit by 2019.Alexander Dennis

On Thursday, a Los Angeles county transit agency purchased the first all-electric double-decker bus in North America. The bus will be made with batteries from electric bus designer Proterra, and the carriage of the bus will be designed by Alexander Dennis, the company that supplies double-decker buses in London, Hong Kong, Auckland, Singapore, Toronto, Ottawa, Seattle, and Mexico City.

Buses are prime candidates for electrification: their diesel counterparts are considerably polluting and buses travel extremely predictable routes at relatively low overall speeds, so range anxiety can be eliminated with route planning and heavier, more powerful batteries. Proterra has been making electric bus batteries for years, and the company recently broke a record for electric buses by traveling 1,101.2 miles on a single charge.

  • Foothills Transit Silver line runs from Claremont, CA to downtown Los Angeles.
  • Proterra's E2 battery will be used on this bus. Proterra

That range was possible with the help of a 660kWh battery called the E2. This double-decker bus, which is expected to enter service in 2019, won't have a battery that big, but its battery will be based on the same concept as the record-breaking battery, packing 160 watt-hours per kilogram. For comparison, the battery on the Chevy Bolt has been reported to be about 136 Wh/kg. To ensure that those energy-dense batteries work properly, Proterra's thermal management system will be used.

Additionally, an electric double-decker bus can improve efficiency by transporting more people per trip. Alexander Dennis says this bus, which will cover a relatively long route from Claremont, CA to downtown Los Angeles, will be equipped with Wi-Fi for business commuters. The public transit agency that placed the order, Foothill Transit, has been growing its electric bus fleet in an effort to curb emissions in a historically smog-trapping region.

Doran Barnes, Executive Director at Foothill Transit, said the agency did an "extended demo" of an Alexander Dennis bus last year. “As congestion intensifies across Southern California, every inch of road space matters, so increasing passenger occupancy while maintaining comfort and a singular bus footprint is a public transit solution were really excited to introduce,” Barnes said.

Foothill Transit said its goal is to have a 100 percent electric bus fleet by 2030.

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