"What we'd really like and like some of the vehicle manufacturers to deliver is a seven-passenger vehicle," says Ron Posthuma, assistant director for King County DOT. "We've got 1,200, and almost all of them can fit within the areas needed for electric charging. A five-passenger vehicle is at the bottom edge of what we want in a van pool. Battery technology is still moving, but it's not quite there for a vehicle that size."
What many agencies are realizing is that full-size electric buses are good for shorter routes, such as the 291 line that Foothill runs its three Ecoliners on. Foothill, a joint agency of 22 cities and Los Angeles County that runs 33 lines, is hoping to use those nine buses to make its 291 line an all-electric line.
"It's a heavy local line," Friesema said. "It hits some schools, a couple public libraries, shopping centers, the Pomona Transit Center, which is a transfer point for many lines. We got a lot of on-off traffic, a lot of wheelchair traffic.
"It was the perfect opportunity to put this technology through its paces."
"Some of the leading transit agencies said they only put buses out three hours in the morning and three in the evening," Hill said. "They said they don't need fast charging, but they want a bus with a longer range. We have a system that allows a bus to run 75 to 80 miles without a charge, but it can't fast charge.
"We can use a less-expensive battery technology where they charge the bus at night and then charge in the middle of the day when it's not peak hours."
Chattanooga runs an electric bus in the morning on one route, brings it in for a charge and redeploys it during peak times in the late afternoon and early morning.
"Once they're done with rush hour, they can charge the batteries or swap them out," Elwood said. "Then they repeat the same thing at the end of the day."
But finding an all-electric bus that will run from sun up to sun down is not possible at the moment.
"It eventually will be there," Elwood said. "A number of electric buses are being built. It does exist, it's a matter of really developing the technology within energy storage and constraints and working within those restraints to put a bus on a designated route."
Offering Charging Stations
King County Metro in the Seattle area has offered electric trolleys for a number of years, and they are expanding to offer public and private charging stations for owners of electric vehicles. King County is installing charging stations for electric vehicles at park-and-ride lots as well as county-operated parking garages. The county is also working with local companies such as Microsoft and Children's Hospital to install charging stations for those companies' employees.
"Everyone will have home-charging capacity, but you can't just go to the gas station with an electric car," Posthuma said. "What are you going to do when you're driving around and notice you're running out of juice? We're trying to offer a publicly available charging station in our network."
King County will benefit from the charging stations, being able to charge for parking in electric-charging parking spots. A $4 charge per charging session will be levied, which is also beneficial to the driver.
"A lot of the garages we're talking about, there's already a premium for parking space," Posthuma said. "A lot of park and rides are oversubscribed, so the value of the parking stall is getting the addition of the juice."
Electric technology is expanding throughout the country, and those that have it already in service are looking to expand upon it.
"We've been looking at other lines to see where the technology would be usable," Friesema said. "We want to see if we can find a place somewhere along that line's route to install an infrastructure for a fast charge."
Electric vehicles are an ever-growing entity, and companies aren't going to stop adapting to new needs. As demands grow for not only the number of vehicles but what each vehicle offers, companies know they need to adapt to stay relevant and improve the technology.