The University of Georgia (UGA) has been awarded $10 million from the state of Georgia to purchase 19 electric buses.
The funding was awarded by GO! Transit Capital Program, a competitive funding program administered by Georgia's State Road and Tollway Authority. UGA will provide $5 million in matching funds.
The 40-foot zero-emission electric buses should arrive on campus in 2017 and are part of the university's strategic plan to advance campus sustainability. The buses will augment the university's existing fleet of 59 diesel buses and will replace the university's oldest buses.
"By adding sustainable electric buses to our UGA fleet, we also are helping to raise the air quality in our community," said Robert Holden, associate VP, Auxiliary Services.
UGA's Campus Transit system serves 11 million passengers a year, including UGA students and Athens community members. Buses in the UGA system, which is the state's second-largest bus system in ridership behind Atlanta's MARTA system, drive a combined 900,355 miles a year. The new electric buses are expected to use 171,000 fewer gallons of diesel in a year. The battery-powered motors have simpler maintenance and could last for 20 years or more, according to UGA officials. Over the buses' lifetime, fuel and maintenance costs are expected to be 84% less than those for diesel buses, according .
"We are excited about bringing this cutting-edge and sustainable electric bus technology to the University of Georgia and the Athens-Clarke County community," said Don Walter, director of transportation and parking services at UGA. "These buses will enhance research opportunities, greatly reduce emissions and will slow the growth of transportation costs."
The electric buses will provide opportunities for campus research. Scientists and engineers in the UGA College of Engineering are working to develop charging technologies — fast-charging and wireless-charging for electric vehicles, such as buses. Researchers also are building a database of electric vehicle usage, operation and charge-time data to come up with a set of best practices. With the addition of the buses, the researchers will have more data to access.
In addition, the electric buses can be used as batteries to power buildings — such as residence halls or dining facilities — for up to five hours per bus. This capacity could be useful during snowstorms or other emergencies, Walter said.