NORFOLK, Va. - Hampton Roads Transit's new Proterra electric buses have been in service since the fall and it's HRT's hope to deliver greater reliability and reduced maintenance.
"They do not take fuel which is actually one of our biggest costs when running a bus,” Tara Puckett, HRT’s maintenance trainer for the agency’s Norfolk garage said. “They've been pretty good, maintenance-wise."
News 3 visited the garage for a closer look at the electric buses and saw what they have to offer. The buses came at a price tag of $1 million each.
Purchasing the buses was made possible by a $14 million grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia to purchase electric buses throughout Virginia. HRT was the first agency to get the electric buses.
Puckett praised the minimal maintenance the buses required compared to a diesel bus. She also said the buses do not overheat compared to their diesel counterparts.
Puckett said any repairs to the batteries and drive unit can be expensive, compared to diesel buses.
"But we haven't had any battery problems or any drive unit problems,” Puckett said. “The only problems we've had are bus problems like we had one that went through a puddle and the horn got shorted out but that happens when any bus goes through any puddle."
The buses can run for about six to seven hours in the winter and up to eight hours in the summer on a single charge. Proterra, on its website, stated a bus can ride up to 329 miles on a single charge.
Charging time can vary depending on the remaining charge a bus has. “This bus is actually at 38 percent,” Puckett said, as she hooked a charging device to a bus. “I expect it to be ready to go in about two-and-a-half to three hours."
The electric buses are also quiet. Passengers may notice a whirring sound, but that is the sound of the heating and air conditioning systems that are louder than the motor.
The buses also go from 0 to 60 miles-per-hour quickly. "When you turn a light on, the light is on,” Puckett said, comparing how fast the buses gain speed. “When you ask this bus for torque, you get torque."
Right now, you'll only find the electric buses on route 20 along Virginia Beach Blvd.
"From Downtown Norfolk, all the way to the Oceanfront,” Puckett said. “You're stopping just about every other block and it just murders diesel buses."
The buses are still in the test phase which Puckett said will take two years. She added the electric buses are being considered for other heavy routes.