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Asheville suffers shock as 3 of 5 flawed EV buses unusable. In all, city says it has sustained $5M loss
Sunday, 04 February 2024 18:21

We’re pressing pause on investing in any electric technology until we can assure the products we get are going to be able to work,’ city official says


From Staff Reports

The City of Asheville — with three of five electric buses that it bought in 2018 inoperable and the other two severely lumited because their batteries cannot exceed 78 miles per charge  — is calling a pause on buying more EV buses. 

The city has spent more than $5 million on the five EV buses that, at least currently, are — in the view of some transit officials — a liability rather than an asset to the city’s public transit system that includes 32 other buses in the fleet, which either run on biodiesel or are hybrid models.

Asheville’s interim transportation director, Jessica Morriss, told Asheville television station WLOS-TV (News 13) in a Jan. 18 story that the three out-of-commission buses are down due to a combination of software issues and mechanical problems, and one has had a broken door since July that cannot be replaced. 

Asheville’s EV buses were made by Proterra, an electric bus company founded in 2016 and based in Burlingame, Calif., that filed for bankruptcy in August 2023.

“We haven’t been able to get new doors,” Morriss was quoted as saying by News 13. “There’s no third-party that makes a door. We’d have to get custom-made doors.”While Proterra’s operations are still shut down, the company recently was purchased by Phoenix Motor. However, it is unclear if and when parts and services for Proterra buses will be available.

“The last couple of years have been particularly difficult,” Morriss was quoted as saying by News 13. “We don’t see an end in sight.”In the meantime, Asheville is staring down losses from a major investment.

Specifically, Morriss told News 13 that each bus cost at least $616,000, and the city had to spend another $200,000 for the installation of each charger, another $118,000 every year to lease batteries for the buses, and nearly $45,500 annually in electric costs to charge them.

She also noted that maintenance costs for the electric buses have topped $250,000. At the same time, having most of the electric buses out of operation has increased wear and tear on the rest of the 32 buses in the fleet, which either run on biodiesel or are hybrid models.

Meanwhile, city Maintenance Director John McDaniel also weighed in on the problems Asheville has had with its electric buses, telling News 13 in its Jan. 18 story that the two electric buses that are still in operation can only travel around 78 miles in the wintertime before needing to return to the shop and charge for hours.

The Daily Planet contacted McDaniel on Jan. 26 for further comment — and he responded early Jan. 29 by noting that he cannot comment, and advised contacting city officials on the matter.

Morriss was quoted by News 13 as saying, “There’s some lessons here for sure. We’re pressing ‘pause’ on investing in any electric technology until we can assure the products we get are going to be able to work.”

Also, City of Asheville spokeswoman Kim Miller said in a statement to FOX Business, “There can often be unidentified issues when adapting any new technology,” and acknowledged that “[p]resently, the city is not pursuing the purchase of additional fully electric buses.”
 



 


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