AARON WEINMANN/THE HOYA The D.C. Circulator system will introduce 14 electric buses to its fleet, offering D.C. residents another sustainable transportation option.

The District of Columbia Circulator system will deploy 14 battery-electric, zero-emission buses in Washington, D.C., starting May 1, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said at the Downtown Business Improvement District’s annual State of Downtown Forum on April 20.

The new Proterra E2 Catalyst electric buses are expected to reduce diesel consumption by more than 88,900 gallons per year and eliminate more than 243,980 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually, according to an April 20 news release. Over their 12-year lifespans, the 14 Proterra buses will reduce fuel and maintenance costs for the city by more than $6 million.

Manufactured in the United States, the buses will run on electricity will and feature free public Wi-Fi, digital display screens for commuter information and USB ports for charging personal devices.

This fleet of electric buses is the first of its size in the region, Terry Owens, director of communications for the District Department of Transportation, wrote in an email to The Hoya.

“We are excited that we have, as of now, the largest fleet in the east coast of this type of vehicles,” Owens wrote. “The electric bus rollout makes strides toward the Mayor’s vision of sustainability and transit enhancements, as well as supports the city’s goals in the Sustainable D.C. plan.”

The circulator buses will offer residents another sustainable transportation option, joining existing dockless bike-share and electric scooter systems, Bowser said.

“A growing city needs growing transportation options. These new electric buses will provide

residents and visitors with one more sustainable, reliable, and affordable way to get around the District,” Bowser said in the April 20 news release. “With this greener, more modern fleet of buses on the road, we are building a safer, stronger, and more sustainable D.C.”

The announcement follows the addition of 26 New Flyer Xcelsior model buses to the D.C. Circulator fleet last August as part of DDOT’s Sustainability Plan. The plan seeks to increase public transit use to 50 percent of all commuter trips, reduce commuter trips made by car or taxi to 25 percent and reduce the number of “unhealthy” air quality index days, including “unhealthy for sensitive groups” days, to zero.

DDOT partnered with Proterra, a California-based automotive and energy storage company that designs and manufactures electric buses and electric charging systems. The company designed the Catalyst E2 buses that DDOT is deploying, which hold the world record for the furthest distance an electric vehicle can travel on a single charge at 1,101.2 miles.

Proterra is a leader in the production of electric buses, one reason why DDOT chose to partner with the company, Owens said.

“Proterra is recognized nationwide as one of the pioneers for this type of vehicle and continues to innovate with this technology,” Owens wrote. “We are happy they were able to meet the vehicle requirements proposed by the District, and we have the vehicles we have today.”

Proterra CEO Ryan Popple said a partnership with D.C. presented an opportunity to improve transit in a major city, in the April 20 news release.

“As one of the most vibrant and visited cities in the nation, Washington, D.C., is the perfect place to introduce technology that not only dramatically reduces emissions, but also fundamentally improves the rider experience,” Popple said.

DDOT has been planning to replace the oldest vehicles in the fleet of Circulator buses for the past five years, according to Owens. All D.C. Circulator vehicles were purchased with local funds, and the DDOT did not request any federal contribution or subsidization for the project.

The added buses will not replace those already on the road. Instead, they will complement existing operational demands for the service while the performance of the new vehicles is evaluated, although Owens expects a positive report.

“The District will be evaluating how the vehicles perform in the urban environment, how they perform in various weather conditions and what the maintenance demands are during the first year of operations,” Owens wrote. “Jurisdictions that have implemented electric vehicles, have been very happy with the results.”

Owens hopes the pilot program in D.C. is successful and the company will be able to expand its electric bus service to other East Coast cities.

“At this time we are focused on ensuring a successful pilot and review of the technology before we consider future purchases,” Owens said. “We hope that we will be able to showcase this technology and serve as a hub for other transit on the East Coast to possibly follow suit.”

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One Comment

  1. Public Transport User says:

    FYI, the picture is of a WMATA bus….

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