Metro RTA might charge into downtown Akron with a "circulator" bus powered by electricity.
A decision remains years away, but Metro officials toured the city Tuesday in a $900,000 electric bus being shown off by Proterra, a company based in Greenville, S.C.
During a stop at Swensons in West Akron, Metro Executive Director Richard Enty said, "Metro's definitely going to consider it."
Enty said it could be good for short runs.
"For this type of vehicle, one of the applications we are considering is a downtown loop bus, so this is something we might look at if that makes sense."
Proterra founder Dale Hill said maximum distance on one charge is about 40 miles, but it only takes five minutes to charge. He said most bus routes are shorter than that and include a layover of five minutes or more, ample time to recharge and keep in service all day.
The vehicle, which seats 33 to 37 people, uses a system that coordinates the bus and the charging device once it gets within 15 feet. The driver slowly follows a line on the road and the computer controls speed as it links up with an overhead charger. Anything within 18 inches left or right is good enough to make a connection.
Hill said the engine in the rear requires 220 kilowatts, which translates to about 295 horsepower and 500 foot/pounds of torque.
Typical speeds are 11 to 13 mph, all that's needed for a downtown area.
Hill said 80 percent of the parts are made in America, including 33 states.
Pomona, Calif.; Stockton, Calif.; and Tallahassee, Fla., already have Proterra buses.
Hill acknowledges a diesel bus costs about $450,000, but said his vehicle is competitive over the long haul because the electricity it uses is far cheaper than diesel fuel.
"Very few green technologies are ever cost-competitive with the incumbent technology they are replacing such as solar or wind," he said. "This bus today, when you do a life-cycle cost analysis, is less expensive than diesel buses, which is the incumbent technology it is replacing."
Enty said an Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study paper indicated a need for a bus that circulates, linking parking lots north and south of the downtown area. The city already has agreed to use some city land to make a parking lot south of the Pfaff Transit Center on Broadway.
Metro has about 200 buses, including smaller SCAT buses, and about 60 percent of them are diesel, Enty said. The remainder are powered by compressed natural gas.
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Scott of Twitter at Davescottofakro.
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