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University of Montana

ASUM Transportation bringing electric buses to its fleet

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A passenger boards one of the UDASH shuttle buses Wednesday afternoon at the Music Building stop on the University of Montana campus. ASUM Transportation has recently ordered two new “zero-emission,” battery-electric buses for the fleet and a charging station that will be installed at the Music Building site. The buses are expected to be operational this summer.

Together, they will save 1,392 tons of emissions in 12 years – and 123,500 gallons of fuel.

This week, the Associated Students of the University of Montana announced that ASUM Transportation ordered two new "zero-emission" battery-electric buses and a charging station for the campus.

The purchase will save the emissions and fuel noted above, and it represents the board's decision years ago to pursue cleaner technologies, said Jordan Hess, director of the ASUM Office of Transportation.

"We looked at natural gas and other liquid fuel-based solutions," Hess said. "And the electric technology has come so far, we thought we'd just skip over all those other intermediate steps."

After 18 months of research and recent approval by the Montana Board of Regents, ASUM Transportation ordered two 40-foot Catalyst Fast Charge buses from Proterra, according to a news release from UM. Hess said UM is the first campus to purchase buses from the company, and he anticipates they'll arrive and be in operation this summer.

"Proterra is the only company that offers the fast-charging electric bus, and ASUM is its first university client to make a purchase," according to the news release.

The new buses cost $739,000 each, "a fairly significant premium over a diesel bus," Hess said. However, he said the purchase ends up saving $175,000 during the life of the vehicles, estimated conservatively at 12 years.

"That's largely due to the fact that you don't have nearly as many parts to maintain," Hess said. "The fuel, the electric costs are stable and significantly lower."

ASUM Transportation and Mountain Line have worked together on local ridership, and last year, they brought an electric demonstration vehicle to Missoula, Hess said. The partnership has grown.

"We're really collaborating in a way we never have before. We submitted a joint application to the Federal Transit Administration for a grant for additional electric buses in the future," Hess said.

ASUM Transportation plans to locate the charging station at the Music Building on campus because it's the busiest site, and it's also on a Mountain Line route so the district buses could use the station in the future as well, Hess said. He said the buses can charge just a couple minutes at a time, while students are loading and unloading.

The organization is paying for the buses through Montana's INTERCAP Loan Program, according to the news release: "ASUM received a diesel emissions reduction grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is administered by the DEQ. The $163,191 grant aims to improve public health by reducing emissions and particulate matter."

ASUM Transportation provided the estimates of emissions and fuel savings from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (see chart online for details).

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