Long Beach Transit to expand its electric bus fleet by 340% this year • Long Beach Business Journal

A man retrieves his bicycle from the front of an electric bus at the First Street Long Beach Transit Center downtown on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Before the end of 2022, Long Beach Transit will more than quadruple its fleet of electric buses, building on the agency’s longstanding environmental efforts.

The agency’s electric bus offerings began in earnest in November 2016, when the first electric buses hit the streets of Long Beach – an order of 10 to around $1 million apiece through BYD in Los Angeles, a subsidiary of a Chinese manufacturer of the same name. The contract included an option to purchase 14 additional electric buses, which the transit agency chose to exercise in 2019.

“We have been a national leader in implementing battery electric bus technology,” said Michael Gold, vice president of communications for Long Beach Transit. “We were a pioneer.”

The first of these additional electric buses is expected to be delivered soon, Gold said. With a few buses delivered each week, all 14 should be in Long Beach within a month or two.

Last year, the agency’s board authorized the purchase of 20 additional electric buses from Canadian manufacturer New Flyer, which, barring any supply chain issues, are expected to be delivered from this summer. Gold said.

“These are shorter buses, which means they can navigate certain neighborhoods a little easier,” Gold said, noting that the buses are 35 feet instead of the standard 40 feet.

“So places like Alamitos Bay where we couldn’t go before, we can go,” he said.

The new buses also cost about $1 million each, Gold said. The agency pays for all new vehicles through grants from state and federal governments, he added.

Once Long Beach’s electric bus fleet reaches 44, they will represent 20% of the agency’s active fleet, according to Gold. Long Beach Transit’s active fleet includes 122 low-emission compressed natural gas vehicles, 10 electric vehicles, 76 electric-gas hybrids and 13 diesel buses.

Although diesel buses are included in the active fleet, they are not part of the operational rotation, Gold noted. The agency has 13 diesel buses and an additional 12 CNG buses detained for emergencies.

As new electric buses come online, hybrids will be phased out first, Gold said.

When introduced, electric buses only operated Long Beach Transit’s passport service in the downtown area, which is a short route. But since the initial period, during which the agency considered range and reliability, electric buses have been gradually introduced into a regular rotation, serving all areas of the city.

The Long Beach agency was one of the first nationwide to deploy electric buses on a large scale, according to Gold. He said many agencies across the country have started small, buying one or two electric buses to start with.

“Long Beach has air quality issues,” Gold said. “It’s something that impacts our community, and we’re committed to not being a contributor.”

The agency’s first electric buses arrived in the city two years before the state announced new regulations requiring transit agencies to transition to 100 percent zero-emission bus fleets by 2040. order has been unanimously approved in December 2018 by the California Air Resources Board as a way to reduce emissions.

Long Beach’s ambition gave it the confidence early on to aggressively pursue its goal of having a fully zero-emissions fleet by 2035, Gold said. Although electricity has been the focus of purchases so far, Gold said hydrogen fuel cell buses could also come to Long Beach in the future.

“Our North Long Beach site is the primary residence of our [CNG] buses and we have the infrastructure to power them…in the bus station,” Gold said. “Converting that to hydrogen is not a big job because we already have the storage tanks and so on.”

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