NC: BOGO: RDU airport gets a bargain price on someone else’s electric buses

Feb. 21, 2024
Raleigh-Durham International Airport is getting a deal on six electric buses, thanks to a transit agency in Florida that ordered more than it could pay for.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport is getting a deal on six electric buses, thanks to a transit agency in Florida that ordered more than it could pay for.

Miami-Dade County planned to buy 75 electric buses from California-based Proterra, but took delivery on only 69 of them. RDU already has four Proterra electric buses and expected to receive four more last fall.

But the company went bankrupt in August, idling its assembly lines. RDU wasn’t certain when or if it would get the buses it had ordered or be able to buy more from the company.

The company that took over Proterra’s business, Phoenix Motorcars, has resumed production, but RDU doesn’t expect to receive the four buses it ordered until early 2025.

Then Phoenix came to RDU with an offer: We’ll sell you the undelivered Miami-Dade buses at a big discount. RDU could have all six for a bit more than $3.9 million or $651,500 per bus, roughly half the cost of comparable buses, said Brian Mclean, the airport’s manager of fleet maintenance.

“They are beautiful buses,” said Mclean, who went to see them at the factory in Greenville, South Carolina. “The buses have all the bells and whistles.”

On top of that, the buses are available now. RDU will have to make some modifications, including replacing some seats with luggage racks and re-wrapping the exterior with RDU’s colors and logo, at a cost of about $30,000 per bus, Mclean said. He expects the buses to be in service at RDU in three to six months.

The Airport Authority board voted to buy the buses Thursday.

“This solves a problem for us,” said Ellis Hankins, who heads the board. “And I think it’s an opportunity we can’t afford to miss.”

RDU has 16 buses that shuttle travelers and employees between remote lots and the airport terminals and wants to grow that number to 28. The expansion is needed largely to serve people who use the airport’s largest remote parking lot, which the airport is tripling in size early next year.

RDU has put out a request for proposals from electric bus companies for eight to 12 more buses. The bids are due Feb. 20. Mclean said it would likely take two years for those buses to be delivered to the airport.

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