RIPTA unveils Rhode Island's first electric bus fleet

Aug. 18, 2022
RIPTA has received the first of 14 New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE NG™ 40-foot battery-electric buses, with the remainder of the authority’s order to be delivered in the upcoming months.

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) was joined by elected officials to unveil Rhode Island’s first electric bus fleet. 

RIPTA has received the first of 14 New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE NG™ 40-foot battery-electric buses, with the remainder of the authority’s order to be delivered in the upcoming months. This fleet of New Flyer Xcelsior electric buses will replace the current fleet of diesel buses that operate on the R-Line, RIPTA’s most frequent and highest-ridership route, connecting Providence and Pawtucket. 

“As a leader in clean, renewable energy, Rhode Island has the momentum to create a more sustainable future and our administration is committed to advancing that goal,” said Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee. “Ensuring clean air, zero-emission sustainable energy and easier access to public transportation is a priority. I thank our partners at RIPTA for their commitment to the environment and to the thousands of riders who rely on their services each and every day.” 

The deployment creates RIPTA’s first fully electric route which will lower emissions on this key corridor, where many low-income and diverse communities have been affected by air pollution. The bright green buses, equipped with 320 kWH batteries, also mark RIPTA’s commitment to cleaner and more sustainable public transportation. 

“The arrival of these New Flyer electric buses demonstrates RIPTA’s commitment to mitigating climate change and contributing to a zero-emission future,” said RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian. “These electric buses are yet another example of how public transportation can help achieve cleaner air quality. We already know that using public transportation as opposed to single occupancy vehicles is beneficial to our environment. Switching to electric buses only furthers the benefits of using public transportation.” 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a 40-foot electric bus can save up to 135 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) annually, which is what a traditional 40-foot clean diesel bus would emit per year. 

The fleet will be electrified by high-powered charging infrastructure – the state’s first electric bus in-line charging station – located on Broad Street at the Providence/Cranston city line. The station, featuring four overhead pantograph chargers, allows for frequent recharging en route without human interaction. To charge, the bus pulls into the charging station and the overhead pantograph lowers from the station to the bus bars installed on the roof of the bus to charge. After charging for an estimated five to nine minutes, the vehicle can return to service. 

Each New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE NG™ 40-foot heavy-duty transit bus costs $1,072,551.13. Fleet funding was provided by the Federal Transit Administration, Volkswagen settlement funds and RIPTA capital funds. 

“I helped deliver over $37 million in federal funding since 2018 to help RIPTA replace older diesel buses with new, clean-energy, cost-efficient vehicles and install the related charging infrastructure, including a $5 million Low-No Emissions Bus Grant to help purchase these R-Line electric buses. Getting these buses on the road will improve service for riders, air quality for the public, and save taxpayers money on fuel and maintenance costs,” said Sen. Jack Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, who in addition to delivering Low-No Emissions Bus Grant funds also helped secure a new $22.37 million federal RAISE grant this month for RIPTA to procure 25 new electric buses and recharging infrastructure to electrify Aquidneck Island bus service. 

“NFI subsidiary New Flyer is pleased to provide these electric buses to enable RIPTA’s transition to zero-emission at scale,” said Chris Stoddart, president, North American Bus and Coach, NFI. “Our battery-electric buses deliver immediate emissions reduction. Together, we are reducing greenhouse gases, providing cleaner air, and working to create healthier communities.” 

Zero emissions electric bus program 

In May 2018, the state of Rhode Island announced that approximately $14.4 million of the state’s Volkswagen settlement funds would be used to take important steps toward improving air quality in Rhode Island – including the acquisition of electric buses for RIPTA. In 2019, RIPTA launched a pilot program with three leased all-electric buses. This first phase of the pilot provided RIPTA with an opportunity to learn about the new technology, train staff and test the performance of the electric buses on a variety of RIPTA routes. Now that that phase is complete, RIPTA is moving forward with the construction of the state’s first in-line charging station, as well as the purchase of 14 electric buses as permanent additions to its fleet.  

In-line charging station 

The roughly $6.7 million project, which BOND Civil & Utility Construction, Inc. is expected to complete by spring 2023, and is funded largely by the Volkswagen settlement fund. The remaining funds are coming from federal transit funding. BOND Civil & Utility Construction, Inc. of Medford, Mass., is experienced in delivering critical infrastructure, including electric bus charging stations, for institutions, major utilities, and power and energy companies.