Even with grant, electric bus far off for Juneau

Cost, demand of vehicle makes for long wait time

An electric motor coach provided by BYD Auto Co., Ltd., a Chinese automobile manufacturer based in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, and Alaska Coach Tours stops at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center to showcase the potential for electric vehicle bus transportation as part of the tourism industry in Alaska on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. The city is working to get a permanent electric bus, but even with a grant it might take more than a year for it to get to town. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A federal grant for bringing an electric bus to Juneau has city officials excited, but it will be a while before the bus actually makes it to Juneau.

 

The grant money, from the U.S. Department of Transportation, is going to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities before $408,000 of it comes to Juneau. Streets, Fleet and Transit Superintendent Ed Foster said that money likely won’t arrive until November, and then the City and Borough of Juneau will have to move money around and put in an order down the line. This will take a while, he said.

“There’s probably a year to 18 months lead time before we ever see it,” Foster said of the bus. “They don’t build them until we get an order in.”

The grant money is only enough to buy “half a bus,” as Foster put it, but the city already has other grant money set aside for its bus fleet. This money, originally intended to replace older diesel buses, will now be put toward buying this electric bus, Foster said.

Once the bus does arrive, it will be the first of its kind in Alaska, Foster believes.

The bus isn’t the only foray of the city’s into electric vehicles. Recently, Foster said, the city scored grant money through DOT&PF to fund three electric cars. These cars, Foster said, will go to his department and be used for cars to transport employees who don’t need larger repair vehicles. These larger repair vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, just aren’t very accessible in electric form right now.

“We’re trying to use them wherever we can,” Foster said. “Most of our fleet is made up of work trucks, those type of things and there’s just not a good inventory of that kind of vehicle in an electric version yet. It’s out there but they’re just not very available.”

Foster hopes to get those vehicles on order in the next few weeks, but as electric vehicles rise in popularity, wait times rise as well.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com.


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