Zero Emissions

San Diego's MTS launches battery-electric pilot program

Posted on November 4, 2019

The pilot program will begin with testing on multiple routes around San Diego. Following several weeks of route validation, the buses will go into passenger service in late November.
San Diego MTS
The pilot program will begin with testing on multiple routes around San Diego. Following several weeks of route validation, the buses will go into passenger service in late November.San Diego MTS

San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) is launching zero-emissions bus (ZEB) pilot program. The battery-electric vehicles are first-of-their-kind in the region and represent the next leap forward in the transit agency’s leadership in providing connected communities, cleaner air and less traffic.

MTS has acquired six New Flyer Xcelsior Charge battery-electric buses, which cut tailpipe emissions by 100%, immediately improving air quality and helping the region achieve climate action goals.

The pilot program will begin with testing on multiple routes around San Diego. Following several weeks of route validation, the buses will go into passenger service in late November.

MTS’s 40- and 60-foot fixed-route buses are fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG). State regulations require public transit agencies to gradually transition to all-ZEB fleets by 2040. MTS is preparing for that mandate by initiating the pilot program, which allows MTS staff to analyze vehicle performance under various conditions and train drivers on the most efficient driving habits.

The electric buses have an average estimated range of 150 miles per charge. Range is dependent on many factors, including driving characteristics, weather, topography, and more. Many MTS bus routes are 150 miles or less, making them appropriate for this pilot program. After 18 months of testing and modeling, MTS will have an accurate and holistic picture of the operational realities to present to the MTS Board as the agency develops a road map to transition to a full zero-emissions fleet.

The new buses include the newest on-board video surveillance systems, enhanced wheelchair restraint systems with forward-facing safety barriers, and fully electric air conditioning and engine coolant systems.

The Board-approved budget for the pilot program is $12.5 million, including a combination of bus and infrastructure costs, and design/consulting/project management expenses. The pilot program is funded by the combination of a Caltrans grant, California Air Resources Board offsets, funding from the state’s Low Carbon Transit Operations Program, and its Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project, as well as the MTS Capital Improvement Program.

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