Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and local dignitaries and officials gathered to celebrate the introduction of the MBTA's first new, zero-emission, battery-electric bus (BEB) prototypes into the MBTA's Silver Line fleet.
With support from a $10 million federal grant, the MBTA procured five zero-emission New Flyer battery-electric, 60-foot, articulated buses. All five are currently in Boston with the first BEB prototype having arrived in April 2019 to begin testing and operator training. Three BEBs entered service last week on Silver Line Routes SL2, SL3, SL4, and SL5, with the next two anticipated to enter service on these routes by the end of the summer.
Five charging stations are also being built within the Southampton Bus Garage and Maintenance Facility as part of the project where each BEB will be "refueled" overnight.
The BEBs are powered by both rear-axle and center-axle electric motors to enhance safe operation during the winter months. The majority of 60-foot low-floor articulated buses in service in North America utilize only the rear axle to provide propulsion power by pushing the bus, which can experience traction issues during winter months when snow and ice are present. The performance of the BEBs’ axle placement will be one feature specifically tested and studied while in service.
The MBTA will also be one of the first systems to test 100% electric heat for comfortable onboard temperatures during winter months. Previously, U.S.-built BEBs operated diesel-fired auxiliary heaters.
During a two-year period following the introduction of the BEBs into service, the MBTA will test and gather data on this emerging technology to measure BEB performance and operational effectiveness with a focus on power consumption of electric heaters, operator/passenger comfort, vehicle range impact during extreme conditions, charging requirements, and projected operating costs. The MBTA will operate these buses on Silver Line routes to measure the capabilities of the technology for consideration in future zero-emission bus procurements.
The MBTA is currently investing more than ever before to upgrade its infrastructure under its current $8 billion, 5-year Capital Investment Plan already in place, and the Baker-Polito Administration’s Transportation Bond Bill includes approximately $5.7 billion for the MBTA to continue funding improvements.