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Santa Monica to Add 15 Electric Buses

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By Jorge Casuso

February 23, 2023 -- Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus (BBB) is poised to add as many as 15 battery electric buses, helping it transition its fleet to zero emissions buses by 2030.

The City Council on Tuesday is expected to approve a contract with California-based Gillig, LLC for an amount not to exceed $18,147,670 for the 35-foot buses, according to a report from staff.

The City would use $4,077,128 of Federal reimbursable funds to help pay for the buses, which cost an average about $1.2 million each.

BBB, staff wrote, "is committed to reducing harmful emissions and pursuing the most environmentally sustainable vehicles to provide service to customers and meet the operational needs of the department."

The agency has been converting its Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fleet of buses by replacing them every 12 years or 500,000 miles, staff staff.

The new buses would replace 15 CNG buses purchased in 2010 and 2011 that are currently due for replacement, bringing the total number of battery electric buses to 34 since the first one was added in 2019, staff said.

"The BEBs in the Big Blue Bus fleet have performed well, and staff has received positive feedback from Motor Coach Operators who have driven the buses and customers who have ridden on them," staff said.

Gillig buses make up 80 percent of the fleet, making it easier for technicians to service them and to warehouse replacement parts, staff said.

"Overnight charging for the buses can be accommodated by our existing charging system," which will be enhanced "to accommodate future BEB purchases."

The next phase of the electric bus charging infrastructure is scheduled to be built by the end of next year, staff said.

According to a 2018 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, BEBs emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions that diesel and natural gas buses, even when taking into consideration the electricity generated to operate and charge them.

BEBs were also quieter and cheaper to operate than diesel and natural gas buses. The study, however, did not take into account end-of-life battery disposal.

Although battery-electric vehicles create fewer emissions, they create waste if the vehicle outlives a battery and it must be replaced, the report found.

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