City Council president Bryan von Lossberg steps off Mountain Line’s first electric bus when taking a brief ride around the town on Wednesday, July 25, 2019. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current). Mountain Line took advantage of summer weather and a growing downtown crowd on Wednesday to showcase its newest addition - a gleaming blue electric bus that whispers rather than growls.
As it tooled down the road carrying Mountain Line sponsors and members of the Missoula city council, one factor was gladly absent – the black cloud of eye-burning exhaust that has followed the agency’s fleet of diesel buses around city for the past forty years. The future of public transportation has arrived.
Electrifying the municipal bus is probably the single greatest impact we can have in the transportation sector, - said council member Jordan Hess. - Look at the number of people on the bus, and it’s getting greater efficiency than a diesel bus. Electric has great torque, it’s quiet and it has good air quality.
Mountain Line received the first of six electric buses this month and was desperate to showcase the new technology. the complete fleet of electric buses should arrive by August and begin running routes this September.
The new electric bus, the first of six, runs quietly past a Missoula policeman on Higgins Avenue. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)
The Federal Transit Administration awarded the Missoula Urban Transportation District a grant of $2.7 million last year. because the cost of the vehicles lower, together with the batteries that power them, they’re currently at a price point where Mountain Line can begin its transition to carbon-free transportation.
Roughly sixty percent of Missoula’s electricity comes from renewable sources.
Our board of directors wanted us to go in this direction for some time, trying to have a cleaner environment and get away from fossil fuels as much as we can, - said Corey Aldridge - Thankful to some federal grants, we were able to finally make that dream come true.
The buses are produced by Proterra – the same company that engineered the electric buses currently in service at the University of Montana. Six charging stations and a brand new transformer have already been installed at Mountain Line’s headquarters on Shakespeare Street. Aldridge said Mountain Line can gauge the range of the new buses on its routes when vehicles get into service. The previous diesel buses averaged around four miles per gallon compared to twenty “miles per gallon” from an electric charge.
It’s estimated that electric buses cut down carbon output by around 100,000 tons.
We’re going to try and run them on all routes at some point, - said Aldridge - They won’t be dedicated to any specific route. We’re going to test them all out. It’s going to be a learning experience for us even after we put them in service.
Missoula is the first town in Montana to operate electric buses, and with project to transition to more renewable sources, operating these electric buses may help the city with some environmental savings. That fits well with Missoula’s goal to go carbon free by 2030 and itself of dirty forms of twentieth century power, as well as coal, oil and gasoline.
We’re just moving in the right direction, - said Missoula mayor John Engen - We’re all about renewables and tempering emissions. we sleep in a bowl and anything that doesn’t contribute to making that bowl a mess, we’re all for.