Electric bus coming to Tri-Cities

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldDecember 26, 2012 

Ben Franklin Transit is taking a step to help reduce pollution and may be leading the way for a new kind of public transportation with an all-electric bus.

The remanufactured electric bus will be rolling on Tri-City streets in about a month thanks to a grant and a California company that's transforming standard diesel buses into zero-emission vehicles.

"We have long thought that the 'holy grail' of transportation is a non-polluting, heavy duty, long-range battery and electric motor combination," said Tim Fredrickson, the transit's general manager. "At BFT, our board of directors and staff are 100 percent committed to this project and are excited to be a part of our industry's future."

The electric bus, being manufactured by Complete Coach Works, can go more than 100 miles on a single charge. The new bus is being paid for with a grant from a nonprofit group, CALSTART, which was directed to the Tri-Cities through U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

"This is great news for Tri-Cities residents and businesses," Murray said in a news release.

Complete Coach Works, of Riverside, Calif., gave a demonstration of their electric bus to transit officials, who applied for the grant and provided an old bus that has been in a wreck to be refurbished, officials said.

When the bus returns to the Tri-Cities, it will have all new parts -- including seats and flooring, said Christy Watts, BFT marketing and public relations manager.

Officials are planning to use the bus on Routes 23 and 26, which serves north Richland and includes stops at the Knight Street Transit Center, Washington State University Tri-Cities and Stevens Center Place.

It's an eight-mile loop with low speeds and frequent stops that makes it a good fit and provides ideal conditions for the regenerative braking-enabled Zero Emission Propulsion System (ZEPS) bus, Watts said.

The all-electric bus, while being good for the environment, is also a boon for the Tri-Cities and helps shine another spotlight on what can be accomplished in the community, said Carl Adrian, president of the Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC).

"It's exciting that we were selected as being one of the places to do this," he said, noting that they've been working on the Mid-Columbia Energy Initiative, which aims to make the Mid-Columbia the energy capital of the Pacific Northwest.

"Any time we can bring attention to this market as being energy savvy helps further that goal," Adrian said.

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