Fort Collins, Colorado Adds Electric Buses to Transfort Fleet
- Jun 14, 2022 9:50 pm GMT
On Earth Day, 2022, Fort Collins, Colorado — my hometown — launched the first electric buses in its Transfort bus fleet. Annabelle Phillips, Project Manager at Transfort and Parking Services has been involved with this implementation from its initial stages through to deployment. Here, she explains what went into this effort, how it benefits the community, and what’s next for the project.
The plan for deployment began in 2018 when the City was awarded initial funding from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Settlement Program. Phillips explained, “The funds are available for the purchase of capital assets necessary to replace diesel-fueled passenger revenue vehicles with zero-emission vehicles — namely, battery-electric, hydrogen fuel cell, or compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles fueled by renewable natural gas (RNG).” Funds are also available for a portion of the cost of charging infrastructure for these vehicles, said Phillips. Settlement funds went toward the payment of Transfort’s first three battery-electric buses and three depot charging stations, which are replacing the last remaining diesel vehicles in the fleet.
As of May 31, the buses were still in the testing phase. Phillips noted, “We have been testing the buses on existing routes to determine the realistic mileage range we can expect from them before putting them into revenue service. We hope to have buses in revenue service in the next month or two.”
A Group Effort
Transfort got a lot of support and cooperation in completing this project, even through difficulties. Phillips stated, “One of the biggest challenges was the design and planning for the infrastructure improvements that were needed at the maintenance facility to facilitate bus charging. It had to be done in tandem with the bus build schedule to ensure that the chargers were installed, tested, and commissioned in time for the arrival of the buses.”
Over the course of the project, Transfort worked closely with a number of other departments, including Operation Services (both Fleet and Facilities), Utility Services (Customer Connections and Light and Power), Purchasing, and Sustainability Services.
The department also worked with a non-profit, Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE), to develop its zero-emission fleet transition plan. Additionally, said Phillips, “a number of third-party contractors were involved in getting this project off the ground, including the engineering team who completed the design for the electrical upgrades and charger installation, the electrical contractors who installed the electrical equipment and chargers, and the manufacturers of the buses (Gillig) and chargers (ABB)."
Advancing Energy Goals
As the new buses get into regular rotation, the Fort Collins community will gain from air quality improvements and progress toward the City’s climate action goals. Reduced tailpipe emissions and quiet operation are likely to be the most noticeable benefits.
Phillips noted that the electric bus implementation adds load to the grid, consistent with goals in the Our Climate Future transition to transition away from natural gas and toward an energy source that can be moved toward renewables. Additionally, some of the bus charging can be scheduled, which will contribute to improving the flexibility of grid operations. Phillips stated, “Light and Power recovers the cost for appropriate improvements to the electric network to support new loads, so it is not a negative impact overall.”
The energy used to power the buses is a mix from the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA), a joint action agency supporting the municipal utilities in Fort Collins and neighboring cities Loveland, Longmont, and Estes Park. PRPA is committed to moving toward a 100% noncarbon energy mix by 2030. The current resource mix is a combination of coal-generated and renewable energy sources, as follows:
- 44% coal energy
- 28% wind energy
- 19% hydropower
- 5% external purchase
- 4% solar energy
About 35-40% of blocks (the daily trips that are assigned to each vehicle) can be successfully completed with battery-electric buses and depot charging — in which the buses complete their service during the day and then come back to the maintenance facility and charge overnight — only. Phillips stated, “Transfort is planning for the installation of on-route, or opportunity, chargers to be installed at the transit centers over the next several years to allow for buses to charge while they are in service. This action will open up the opportunity to deploy electric buses on more routes.” Looking further into the future, Transfort is working with CTE to develop a plan to convert the entire bus fleet to zero-emission vehicles by 2040.
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