Steamboat Springs moving forward on electric buses

Getting around Steamboat Springs this winter, whether on a city bus or resort shuttle, is going to look different as the community continues to deal with impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs Transit has received results from some of its studies on implementing electric buses into its current fleet.

The city is currently testing two electric buses, and their mileage, emissions and safety have been measured.

“We found that the bus could meet the full range of service that our current buses do,” said Jonathan Flint, Steamboat Springs transit director.

While the studies with the two buses were successful, Flint said the city is hoping to test a third bus to ensure results are accurate and consistent.

“We did find that the feedback we got on this bus was a little different in several ways with the other bus that we tested, so in my view, it would be good to get a third bus to see which direction is the trend,” Flint said. “We’re trying to see what we can find out from this third bus for planning purposes.”

Flint said if the Steamboat Springs City Council chooses to move forward with implementing electric buses, the main issue would be determining what infrastructure is already available and building charging infrastructure, which the city would partner with Yampa Valley Electric Association to do.

“We really see the benefits of electrifying in all the ways, and transportation is one of them,” said Megan Moore-Kemp, energy solutions manager at Yampa Valley Electric Association. “Some of the benefits of electric buses to our citizens is that they do cost less over the long term, they’re less expensive to charge, fuel and maintain than gas power vehicles, and they cut emissions.”

In addition to saving city taxpayers money and benefiting the environment, Steve Johnson, general manager and president of Yampa Valley Electric Association, said driving or riding in an electric vehicle is a positive experience.

“An electric motor generates instant torque, which means that electric vehicles zoom off starting lines and provide smooth, responsive acceleration and deceleration,” Johnson said in a Colorado Country Life article. “Electric vehicles also have a low center of gravity, which improves handling, responsiveness and ride comfort.”

Steamboat’s decision to add electric buses to its fleet followed the examples set by Boulder, Avon and Breckenridge, and the city worked with Lauren Scoville, senior director at the electric transit bus company Proterra, to move forward.

“We’re excited to put the latest all-battery electric bus model to the test since much has changed from when we first drove an electric vehicle version five years ago,” Flint said. “We’re very interested in seeing how this new model performs on all our routes as well as its battery life in real-world, challenging mountain conditions.”

In addition to the environmental and cost benefits, Flint and Scoville said electric vehicles are the direction the entire world is heading, and the city may not have options for diesel-fueled vehicles in the future.

“Down the road in the future, with a lot of the emissions mandates coming out for heavy buses, diesel may stop being an option,” Flint said. “We just may not have the option to move forward with anything that has a diesel engine attached to it.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.