Test riding RIPTA’s new electric buses

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) has leased three new all electric buses for use in Providence.

“This marks a major step toward a cleaner and greener future for Rhode Island,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. “We’re removing aging diesel buses from our roadways and replacing them with clean, green buses to reduce harmful emissions that contribute to climate change and smog. These buses are part of our overall strategy to make smart investments in cutting-edge technology that drive economic growth while reducing our carbon footprint.”

It was a very different press conference. As the bus wound its way through the South Side of Providence, various politicians rose to speak.

You can watch the entire ride here:

Raimondo was joined on the inaugural run by Rhode Island’s entire congressional delegation, and many Rhode Island State and Providence City officials. The buses still need to be modified before the can be put into actual use, which will most likely be towards the end of the year, though now RIPTA is disputing this on Twittter:

The three buses, says a press release,

…mark the beginning steps of an air quality improvement plan for Rhode Island that the Governor, RIPTA, the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and other partner state agencies have committed to by funding the initiative with approximately $14.4 million in Volkswagen settlement funds. First announced by Raimondo in May, the plan includes the leasing and purchase of electric buses and the installation of a charging infrastructure in the state for private electric vehicles.

A 10-year plan to use the Volkswagen settlement funds is outlined in the state’s Beneficiary Mitigation Plan (BMP) which seeks to substantially reduce tailpipe emissions in the state with a focus on areas identified as poor air quality areas where there is a higher threat to public health due to pollutants. DEM drafted the plan working with the Governor’s Office, RIPTA, the Office of Energy Resources(OER), and the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC). One of the keystones of the plan is to aggressively reduce diesel emissions in the state by earmarking $10 million of the Volkswagen settlement funds to help RIPTA begin replacing diesel buses with zero-emission electric ones.”

“It’s great to see Rhode Island and RIPTA investing in a cleaner energy future as it works replace and modernize its bus fleet,” said Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed. “Upgrading to these new electric buses will improve both air quality and service. I was pleased to secure federal funds that will be helping RIPTA accelerate its progress toward a cleaner, zero-emissions energy future. I will continue working to support RIPTA’s sustainability goals as it works to provide safe, clean, flexible transportation opportunities to all Rhode Islanders.”

“I’m glad to see RIPTA invest in these zero-emission electric buses to improve our state’s air quality and cut down on our use of fossil fuels,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “Electric vehicles are quickly becoming a widespread mode of transportation and are a winning transition to a clean energy economy.”

RIPTA will use what it learns from the leased electric buses to prepare for the purchase of 16 to 20 electric buses starting in 2021. These buses will replace aging diesel buses that need to be retired. When added to RIPTA’s existing hybrid diesel electric buses (which combine diesel with battery power), this investment will give RIPTA a fleet that consists of about 36 percent and low and zero-emission vehicles. The state is allocating about $10 million of the Volkswagen settlement funds for RIPTA to acquire the electric buses.

“I commend Governor Raimondo and RIPTA for their forward-thinking plan to replace Rhode Island’s diesel bus fleet with zero-emission electric vehicles,” said United States Representative James Langevin. “These buses will help improve Rhode Island’s air quality while reducing our carbon footprint and I look forward to seeing them hit the roads.”

“Volkswagen deceived the public while knowingly emitting larger quantities of pollutant than they were admitting to,” said United States Representative David Cicilline. “These funds, which the EPA helped obtain, will be used to mitigate future emissions from our state’s public transit system, and will help support better air quality while keeping Rhode Islanders healthier.”

“The Volkswagen settlement funds have enabled us to move much more quickly in transitioning to electric buses and this is a win for the public, “said RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian. “We are joining other forward-thinking transit authorities that are already employing this technology. We travel the state, and having a greener fleet is important to the neighborhoods we travel through – particularly urban areas with known air quality issues. Taking the bus rather than commuting alone in your car is good for the environment. Taking an electric bus is even better.”

“Replacing diesel-powered buses with new all-electric zero-emission buses will reduce localized diesel pollutants in our near-road communities, and improve air quality and public health for all Rhode Islanders,” said DEM Director Janet Coit, who chairs the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council. “As these state-of-the-art electric buses traverse our roadways, they show Rhode Island’s commitment to reducing harmful emissions that contribute to climate change and smog and to developing a clean and efficient transportation infrastructure. We’re thrilled to welcome clean, cutting-edge bus technology to our public transit fleet! This is a meaningful step in the right direction.”


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About Steve Ahlquist 628 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com

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