Sustainability

Alaska Coach Tours test fully-electric BYD motorcoach

Posted on October 23, 2015

Alaska Coach Tours and battery-powered bus manufacturer, BYD demonstrated a fully electric-powered motorcoach during the Alaska Tourism Industry Association Conference that was held in Juneau earlier this month.

Dennis McDonnell, president of Alaska Coach Tours, hopes to operate an electric-powered motorcoach with trips to the Mendenhall Glacier in future years.

"We are an Alaskan employee-owned company with headquarters in Juneau, Alaska and we feel a responsibility as Alaskans to take the lead in reducing emissions as it relates to showing visitors our beautiful state,” said McDonnell.

Alaska Coach Tours is the motorcoach operator for some of the cruise lines visiting Alaska during the summer months. McDonnell recently made a trip to some of the cruise line headquarters and pitched the electric bus concept.

"Royal Caribbean Cruise Line expressed interest in adding a special tour to the glacier with an electric bus to their new Caring Discoveries shore excursion program. Other cruise lines also expressed interest in adding a tour that featured an electric motorcoach," he said.

The overall cost of the electric bus compared to a standard coach operating in Southeast Alaska is about $500,000 additional. Primarily, older motorcoaches are used by companies in Southeast Alaska because of the short operating season and overall miles driven.

According to McDonnell, it will take a concerted effort by multiple entities to make the electric coach concept a reality including most of the cruise lines and the City and Borough of Juneau transit. Carnival Corp. owns many of the ships coming to Alaska and they have their own bus company. McDonnell believes some of the cruise lines visiting Alaska will look beyond competitive issues and add the tour to their tour program. "I am hopeful we can gain enough business with our existing cruise line contracts and others combined with the overall operating savings from the electric system that would offset the significant capital costs. We are also working with the Juneau Economic Development Corporation on ways we can offset costs for the program," he explained.

Alaska Coach Tours provided tours onboard the electric bus to the Mendenhall Glacier during the convention with proceeds being donated to Adventure Green which promotes sustainable tourism in Alaska.

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