City unveils first all-electric bus in new sustainability-focused TheBus fleet

City unveils first all-electric bus in new sustainability-focused TheBus fleet
The new all-electric TheBus, as seen on the docks in Honolulu upon arrival. (Source: City and County of Honolulu)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a press conference next to a quietly-humming 40-foot bus, city officials on Monday unveiled the first of what will eventually be an entire fleet of all-electric city buses.

“The bus is on and running right now,” said Jon Nouchi, the acting director of the Department of Transportation Services. “With a diesel bus, we would never run a press conference with a bus ambiently, just the noise it would be creating, being on.”

Manufactured by Gillig, one of the nation’s largest bus manufacturers, the new electric bus seats 38 people, with standing room for more, and is capable of servicing 70% to 75% of the bus routes that operate Honolulu.

“Our administration set a bold goal to transform our public bus fleet to 100% renewable fuel by 2035 and we are now steps closer to achieving it,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

The bus cost just under $1 million and is one of three buses that was funded by a Low-No Emissions Bus Program grant that was awarded by the Federal Transit Administration.

Once in use, the cost-per-mile for the bus in terms of electricity needed to charge its battery will be similar to that of the diesel-powered buses currently in use ― but that equation will change as more clean energy becomes an element of HECO’s power grid.

As the electric grid for HECO becomes more and more renewable, that means that all the electricity that we use is using clean energy,” said Aki Marceau, of the Hawaiian Electric Company. “As we continue to clean up our grid, the energy and the fuel that’s going into the electric buses gets cleaner and cleaner and cleaner.”

To charge the city’s electric buses, HECO says, the utility got rid of what is known as a ‘demand charge’ ― a surcharge on energy consumption during the day, when energy consumption is highest.

“That really lowers the price of charging,” said Marceau.

Charging the buses will prove difficult at least for the next few months; the city currently has just one working charger, and a large charging bank for up to 32 electric buses won’t be built until the spring.

The new electric TheBus is scheduled to go into service within the next few weeks.

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