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Ames Will Get Two Electric Buses

Amy Mayer/IPR
CyRide Assistant Director Rich Leners stands between a diesel-electric hybrid bus and a diesel-fueled one.

The roar of diesel buses, and more importantly the pollution they emit, will be reduced when CyRide, a partnership between Iowa State University, its students and the city of Ames, gets its first two all-electric buses.

CyRide received a $1.66 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority’s Low or No Emission Bus Program for the buses and the changes to the garage that will be necessary to accommodate charging them.

CyRide Assistant Director Rich Leners says the route connecting a commuter lot near Jack Trice Stadium to central campus is a good candidate for the new buses.

“They can go out for say 4-5 hours in the morning, come back, and if need be we can put them on a charger for up to 4 hours and then send them back out in the afternoon for another 4-5 hour stretch,” he says.

Other considerations for electric buses include how hilly a route is and the range of temperatures they’ll be expected to function in. As an example, Leners says Duluth, Minn., found electric buses weren’t adequate for winters that far north.

“They could not operate solely on electric,” Leners says. “They had to put on an auxiliary engine to keep the passenger compartment warm.”

CyRide first began considering electric buses when an ISU student, Ryan Saunders, presented their benefits to the transit board in 2017, Leners says.

The current fleet runs on gasoline, diesel, or a diesel-electric hybrid system. Leners says the oldest diesel-only buses will likely be replaced with the electric ones, which may run as much as $800,000 each. CyRide is working to secure the additional funding it will need, and Leners says down the road the hope is to add even more electric buses.

For now, as the logistics and details are worked out, CyRide will be monitoring the options before committing to exactly which buses it will buy.

“It’s like any technology, it just keeps getting better and they keep making improvements,” Leners says, “so if we’re two years out before taking delivery on the first electric bus, I think there’ll be a lot of refinements in the vehicles by then.”

Des Moines and the Quad Cities also are adding electric buses to their fleets.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames