Steamboat Springs Transit considering electric buses

A Proterra electric bus is displayed. (Lauren Scoville/courtesy)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Following in the steps of Boulder, Avon and Breckenridge, the Steamboat Springs City Council and Steamboat Springs Transit will conduct a demonstration of an electric bus as a possible new renewable energy vehicle for the transit fleet.

“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,” said Steamboat Transit Manager Jonathan Flint. “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.”

Flint, as well as representatives from City Council and Yampa Valley Electric Association, listened to a presentation Thursday from Lauren Scoville, senior director at electric transit bus company Proterra and discussed options for moving forward with adding electric buses to Steamboat’s transit fleet.

“The transit market is rapidly shifting to electric vehicles,” Scoville told the group, adding Proterra has vehicles being used in 43 states.

“When people think of electric vehicles, they often think of California and the coasts,” Scoville said. “But that just isn’t true anymore.”

Flint said if the city chooses to move forward, the project would take about three years to complete, and the city may choose to wait for the technology to improve and prices to decrease.

“One of the things that really changed over the years is costs do come down as technology improves,” Flint said. “We’ve been looking at this for quite a while and we’re very excited.”

While the prices could change before the city makes a purchase, Flint said they are currently looking at a price range of $900,000 for the vehicle and $250,000 for the charging.

“It’s a worthy investment,” he added.

Scoville also said Proterra works mainly with local municipalities and believes electric vehicles are the future of city transit.

“Our company can’t just offer a sustainability offering, we also have to deliver a return on investment to our transit customers and stewards of the public dollar,” Scoville said.

Sonja Macys, a City Council member in the meeting, said she had communicated with representatives from other cities that have switched to electric vehicle transit and heard very positive results.

“I’ve been talking to the folks in Breckenridge about electric buses for a long time and they love them,” Macys said. “This is definitely something to keep talking about here.”

Transit staff also will look at the mechanical and operational systems of the electric bus, conduct maneuverability tests and then drive on bus routes to understand acceleration, braking and climbing capabilities. Testing will be conducted on several local routes as well as the regional transit line Monday and Tuesday.

The city’s move comes at the direction of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who has a goal of 1,000 battery and electric buses by 2030 and the expectation that 100% of heavy-duty transit buses must be battery/electric by 2050. Steamboat transit has been moving toward alternative vehicles and currently features 11 hybrid buses in the transit fleet and plans to purchase additional renewable vehicles in the next few years.

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