San Francisco commits to electric buses

San Francisco is taking a step in committing to an all-electric fleet of buses — in 17 years.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors adopted a resolution that read the transit agency will begin the purchase of battery-powered buses in 2025 and have an entire fleet of electric buses by 2035.

The transit agency already has the largest fleet of zero emission trolley buses in the nation, said SFMTA Director of Transit John Haley.

To begin testing of the possibility of using electric buses, the SFMTA said it had purchased new electric hybrid vehicles with a higher capacity onboard battery system.

A SFMTA staff report says the transit agency will run a test program on some routes where vehicles will only operate on battery power, areas known as “green zones.”

Haley said:

“We’ll begin to get a good baseline and benchmark to push the battery technology.”

Haley added that the transit agency is also looking at converting up to 256 of its hybrid diesel buses have their engine or “powertrain” with a battery pack.

In 2019, Haley said he will bring forward a contract to the board to purchase nine electric buses from different manufacturers to test them on the hilly streets of The City:

“What we are doing hopefully with these actions is helping to drive the marketplace so that we are taking an emerging market and moving it down the continuum.”

Additionally, the SFMTA’s 30-foot buses, mostly used on shorter Muni routes, may also become electric.

Haley said the transit agency is currently evaluating a bid from a hybrid bus manufacturer and a bid from an electric bus manufacturer.

Paul Cort, an attorney with Earthjustice, said the nine electric bus pilot is a good start but would like to see the SFMTA begin procuring electric buses earlier than 2025:

“Muni should also be leveraging its upcoming 30-foot bus procurement and begin ramping up electric bus procurement at every step so that by 2023 at the latest, all new procurements will be zero emission buses.”

In March, SamTrans announced they had purchased 10 electric buses to replace 10 diesel buses in a $9.2 million contract with Proterra, Inc., based in Burlingame. The new electric buses are expected in service by early 2019.