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    NJ Transit’s first electric bus makes (quiet) debut The initial fleet is funded by fines paid by polluters.


    October 5, 2022 - Larry Higgs - For The Star-Ledger

     

      NJ Transit’s first electric bus was applauded at a ceremony at the Newton Avenue garage in Camden on Tuesday morning, and again after dignitaries took a ride as it glided silently on the city’s side streets.

      “I’m waiting for the noise, I’m waiting for the shifting of gears. It was smooth, it was quiet, it was really remarkable,” U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-Camden, said after the ride.

      The bus is so quiet that during a test ride, the passengers’ conversations made more noise than the vehicle.

      The bus is the first of eight new electric buses that will undergo a year’s worth of real world testing in Camden. Passengers won’t mistake it for any other type of bus. The body is green with white lettering on the roof proclaiming “it’s electric.”

      The big green bus will be joined by the other seven by the end of the year.

      Other than the ride being quiet and smooth, the big difference for Shawn M. LaTourette, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, is what was missing from the rear of the bus.

      “Most importantly, not puffing out a bunch of diesel smoke that is inhaled by our kids,” he said.

      What also makes the electric bus’s debut special is that fines from polluters provided the $10 million used to purchase the electric fleet, LaTourette said. The funding sources included a nationwide settlement with Volkswagen that followed charges that it bypassed emissions testing on cars.

      “This isn’t costing the taxpayer a dime,” LaTourette said. “We’re proud to see this take shape and get the air cleaner for our kids. That’s what it’s all about.”

      One of the reasons for deploying the eight buses in Camden, with future plans to test other electric buses in Newark, is to reduce the health effects of air pollution, which urban residents disproportionately bear, said NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett.

      “I thank NJ Transit for doing this, so now people can breathe easier. That’s why we’re electrifying our bus fleet, whether it’s a school bus or a transit bus,” LaTourette said. “By transitioning to zero emissions vehicles, we can have a better environment.”

      Several speakers, including Corbett, praised the combination of federal, state and other funding that helped outfit the Newton bus garage with the infrastructure needed to charge the buses.

      Funding for more electric buses and infrastructure could come from the federal $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law, Norcross said. Federal infrastructure funding will also be needed to improve the electric utility power grid to keep up with demand as more electric vehicles come into use, he said.

      Norcross praised NJ Transit for doing a “really good thing moving the program from concept to what we see here today.”

      “This represents a commitment to have the fleet 100% electric by 2040,” said Corbett, who listed the buses as one of the agency’s “transformational projects,” which include construction of a new Northern Bus garage equipped to charge and maintain electric buses and last week’s approval of a larger zero emission vehicle study.

      The New Flyer bus comes with the largest available battery to give the bus the longest range between charges, said Michael Kilcoyne, NJ Transit’s general manager of bus operations.

      Among the tests will be to see how weather affects the battery range of the bus, Kilcoyne said. Running heating and ventilation equipment can consume as much power as driving the bus, which will affect the 150- to 175-mile range of a fully charged battery, he added.

      “We looked at other (transit) agency programs to shape ours,” Kilcoyne said. “We will get real world information in actual road conditions and stop-and-go traffic.”

      That will also inform how they schedule buses, he said.

      Drivers will be trained on the nuances of operating the new bus, and first responders also will learn how the bus operates, he said.

      Larry Higgs, NJ Advance Media, lhiggs@njadvancemedia.com

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