Going electric: CTA to buy 20-30 more all-electric buses

After testing two all-electric buses for a full year, the CTA has decided to buy up to 30 more over the next few years.

The 40-foot electric-propulsion buses, manufactured by New Flyer Industries Inc., are designed to provide a cleaner, quieter ride that reduces fuel costs and significantly decreases emissions, improving air quality for customers and the general public. The CTA says each electric bus is estimated to have annual fuel savings of $25,000, as well as an estimated "health savings" of $55,000.

The health savings are calculated to include the reduction in harmful emissions from operating the electric buses. Running one electric bus is like the equivalent of removing 14 passenger cars from the road, which results in fewer occurrences of respiratory illnesses.

An electric bus costs about $800,000, or about $300,000 more than the average cost of a traditional diesel bus. The CTA expects to run the electric bus for 12 years, and thus pay for the extra costs with the fuel savings.

The CTA will issue a formal request for proposals later this year. The estimated cost for 20-30 electric buses is between $30 million and $40 million, which would be funded through a combination of federal funding sources that CTA is still finalizing.

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  • The actual details were mentioned 1 week 4 days ago..It wasn't necessary to wait for future former Mayor Rahm Emanuel's somewhat misleading press release.

  • Curious, what price per gallon do they use to calculate the fuel savings? The historic high price, or the current price?

    I'm also curious how the long term maintenance costs compare between gas/electric. I have to imagine that electric is cheaper to maintain, at least for the drivetrain. That is, until the battery pack has to be replaced.

    Anyone ridden in one of the electric buses? Are they smoother in their acceleration and deceleration? It bugs the sh*t out of me that some of the drivers can't figure out how to work the throttle. They have "swinging beef" in the back, and they're flinging us around like rag dolls. I have to be careful how I stand to avoid undue lateral stress on my knees when the driver executes a banzai braking maneuver.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I would think they would do it at the price they hedged at, since that would be the most honest, but I'm not sure if we'll know.

    Long term maintenance should be decreased, but they don't mention this as savings. You don't have to change oil, replace belts, worry about emissions, etc. I would hope the battery pack lasts at least 12 years until they scrap it. I wonder if they could incorporate some solar power on garage roofs to help charge these. I think they put some on roofs with some grants some years ago.

  • In reply to chris:

    The buses must have an enormous battery pack to get through a full day. I can't imagine that it charges at the end of a run. With the mass of the bus, the regenerative braking must pump a lot of juice back into the pack.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I read an article in the Trib that had more info. They plan to charge somewhere in the middle of their run and CTA will look to install chargers to accommodate this.

  • Several answers, which could have been found on chitransit.org:*

    1. The price of diesel doesn't matter, because the differential cost between a diesel and an electric bus was paid by the federal government out of CMAQ grants,which would not have been allocated to buy diesel fuel. The funds were originally awarded to convert some 4334 series buses to hybrid, but someone at CTA figured out that this was a more fuel efficient, and most importantly, since it is Air Quality money, much better at eliminating emissions.

    2. The Tribune said that CTA said the battery range was 93 miles. Official Altoona testing cycle was 87 miles. By comparison, LA has purchased some BYD (Chinese) electric buses with a claimed range of 175 miles, and an Altoona report of 125.

    3. The CMAQ application noted Proterra's on the road charger. There is a Jay Leno's Garage demonstrating the Proterra bus, with two chargers for 2 buses at a layover point. The claim there was that the batteries were topped off in the normal 10 minute layover period.

    ________
    *Look at the 700 series XE40 topic under CTA Bus and CMAQ Grants topic under Regional Transit Planning.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks for the info, Jack. Lol. I would normally go on a rant about the muddled thinking that allows our local governments to buy a cost ineffective piece of equipment only because another branch of government is picking up the tab to cover the inefficiency. However, I'll let it slide this time.

    I'm curious at what air temperature the testing was performed. I'd like to see the BYD buses get 175/125 miles when its 10 degrees outside and the interior temperature is set for the typical 95 degrees..

    I guess it doesn't really matter what the range is as long as it's sufficient to get through a full run, and top off in a reasonable amount of time.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Where did you get the 95 degree inside temp?
    Most buses in winter are around 60 degrees.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    They may be 60 degrees when they're empty, but pack the bus full, including the isles, and it becomes a sauna. The frikin temperature is probably set at a fix number, rather than adjust based on the actual temperature in the bus. Heck, there are days on the #66 that they need to turn on the air conditioning.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Since the 2 New Flyers still have diesel heaters, body heat saves fuel.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I have not experienced this on a bus in a long time. I used to experience it on trains, but that has not happened in a while either. It's possible that with the new trains replacing some old, these cars that did not operate correctly have been removed from service.

  • In reply to chris:

    Trains or buses, I find the temps way too high. In the winter, we're basically all wearing winter coats, which make us comfortable with outside temperatures in the 30's. Step on to a bus or train, even at 60 degrees, and it's too warm. I don't need 60 degrees when I'm wearing layers designed for 30 degrees. Frankly, they could be unheated, and they'd still be comfortable, especially when you add 50+ bodies.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I've been on numerous buses this winter with swinging loads & not one of them was overheated.
    You probably got one with a busted thermostat.
    Did you complain to the CTA about it?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Yes, numerous times. I got on the #66 this morning, and it was easily 80 degrees in there, and the bus was only half full. I contacted customer service when I got into work.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Altoona report for the BYD bus is here. All assumptions would be in the pdf.

  • What about the seating? Will we be expected to ride upside down and backwards, or sit sideways with our feet not reaching the floor? And what about the handholds? Will we have to risk injury walking from the back to the front of the bus while the driver alternately accelerates and slams on the brakes?

    I'm sorry if I sound cynical, but riding experience has made me deeply, deeply suspicious of new buses. Especially those that are supposed to be a wonderful blessing for all stakeholders...except the poor passenger, whose physical accommodation doesn't seem to count unless he or she can't walk at all.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Lol. I'm visualizing dozens of passengers hanging upside from from the ceiling like bats. :-)

    The company's website has no photos of the interior, which is no big surprise. Our comfort seems to be the least important factor in the decision making process.

    I found this pic of a model XT40. 'Not sure if it's the same as Chicago is getting, but it appears to be the standard crowded interior. https://i.ytimg.com/vi/AV4yN5J7cJk/maxresdefault.jpg

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    XT is a trolley bus, not a battery bus. Nonetheless, all Xcelsiors seem about the same, except the components listed on chicagobus.org indicate that they used lighter weight seats and signs in the 700s, instead of the usual "Chief Potentate Rahm Emanuel announced that 76 seats were manufactured in Chicago" ones.

    There are interior pictures in the Altoona report.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks. Couldn't tell much about the interior, except that they will have beach towels draped all over the seats, not sure why. Did I see some backwards facing seats or was that my imagination?

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    The view from the back of the bus shows only seatbacks, so...

    However, an interesting thing is that the data forrn in the Altoona report states that the tested bus has Gemini seats, which are the same Rahm Emanuel seats as in the 7900 series CTA Nova Buses, but chicagobus.org says the 700s have Kiel Ideo seats.

    One should also take into account, as the Mayor's press release points out, that a new solicitation is required for this order, so there is no assurance that New Flyer gets this order. Nova, BYD, and Proterra also appear eligible.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Lol. That's how they save weight, by using beach chairs with fabric seats.

    Yes, you can see a bit of blue from the front facing pic, so there does appear to be one pair of rear-facing seats on each side of the isle.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    That's just a modesty pane and wheelchair securementl. There isn't any indication of two horizontal seats facing each other behind it.

  • In reply to jack:

    "panel." Somehow I inserted before the "l."

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Yeah, I've had that same thought. That's why I said upside down. But perhaps they could come up with something involving being securely bundled into a cocoon and removed when I reach my destination. That would be an improvement over bouncing around the interior of the bus risking sprains and bruises, or trying to conform my body to something only pretending to be designed for use by actual humans.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Joking aside, I agree that many bus drivers need to be sent back to school. They accelerate and brake too fast, resulting in standing passengers hanging on for dear life. It's especially annoying when the driver knows in advance that a stop is required. Many of them must be ex-taxi drivers. They speed to the stop, and then get heavy on the brakes. 'No idea why they don't gradually reduce speed and come to a smooth stop. Oh, wait. I know the reason. They have zero incentive to drive in a civilized manner. I've said it numerous times, the buses and trains should be equipped with an accelerometer, allowing the trip to be recorded and analyzed. Any driver/operator exhibiting erratic behavior would be subject to retraining.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    And don't you love it when they keep honking the horn the whole time?

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    I must be lucky on the #66 route, as the drivers rarely have to honk. Of course, there are times when they should honk and don't, as there is a total clueless a-hole in front of them. Let's see, there's the oblivious driver who keeps 20 feet in fron of him clear at a red light, which blocks the bus from getting to the curb/stop. Then there's the always present taxi/uber/lyft discharging passengers in the bus stop zone. Either that, or a deliver truck parked in the bus stop.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I found out that the CTA bus data recorders not only record speed, acceleration & direction, but the brake pressure used when stopping.
    Drivers can be sent to retraining if shown to use excessive acceleration and/or brake pressure.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Interesting. So who reviews this data, and how often? Curious if it's part of a weekly, or monthly review process, or only looked at if someone complains.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I think only if someone complains.
    But if they do regular reviews, it certainly isn't working in getting the drivers to accelerate or brake more evenly.
    And I would think that a computer could do the initial reviews to find those that aren't doing that smoothly & then kick those outliers to management.

  • All true and in some cases justified, but I have observed drivers who exhibit a pattern of honking for blocks. That's just flat-out annoying.

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