Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Sept. 21, 2021

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Volkswagen emissions settlements to help C-Tran buy 10 electric buses

First battery-powered buses won’t go into service until 2021, at earliest

By , Columbian staff reporter

C-Tran will purchase 10 all-electric buses using proceeds from two settlements in the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal and other revenue sources.

Because of a long period to order, manufacture and outfit the buses, the first zero-emission buses won’t be rolling on Clark County streets until 2021, at the earliest.

“These buses take 18 to 24 months to procure,” C-Tran spokeswoman Christine Selk said. “We are expecting to place an order for the first four very soon.”

Selk said her agency doesn’t have a schedule for ordering the other six.

Last week, the Washington State Department of Ecology announced that C-Tran and transit agencies in five other counties — Benton, King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane — will receive $13.3 million to help purchase 50 electric buses.

“This is a transformational investment in our clean energy future and continues to push Washington toward zero-emission transportation technology,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “Getting 50 more all-electric buses on the road is a big step forward, and it will pay off in better air quality across our state.”

C-Tran will receive $1.8 million from the state’s $112.7 million share of a federal settlement with Volkswagen. Earlier this year, the transit agency learned it will receive $1 million from the state’s separate $28.4 million settlement with the German auto manufacturer.

Volkswagen illegally installed emissions-cheating software on diesel vehicles to detect when the vehicles were being tested and to adjust vehicle performance so they would pass. When not being tested, the vehicles’ power and fuel efficiency were improved, but they also emitted up to 40 times the allowed federal levels of nitrogen oxides.

C-Tran had to apply for grants to receive dollars from the state and federal settlements. It can use some of the money to pay for charging stations.

By piggybacking on the state’s contract, each 40-foot battery-powered bus will cost $968,000, plus another $100,000 in technology-related options, such as cameras and traffic signal priority equipment, Selk said.

The electric buses will replace 10 all-diesel 2003 model buses in C-Tran’s fleet, Selk said. Although these will be C-Tran’s first all-electric buses, the agency already has 62 hybrids, which is slightly more than half of its buses operating on fixed routes, she said.

“That is quite a large number compared to other agencies our size,” Selk said.

C-Tran also will receive two Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council grants totaling $3.3 million for the 10 buses.

Those two grants and the two Volkswagen settlements are expected to provide about 55 percent of the money needed to purchase and equip the 10 electric buses. Local sales taxes and other federal grants will cover the remaining cost, Selk said.

According to the Ecology Department, heavy-duty diesel engines in buses and trucks account for about a third of all diesel emissions in Washington.

“Big diesel engines are some of the largest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases in our state,” Maia Bellon, Ecology’s director, said in a statement. “Investing in zero-emission alternatives is essential for improving air quality and protecting Washington communities.”

Columbian staff reporter