Owensboro Transit System is on course to receive its first fully electric bus, allowing the city to begin lowering transit emissions.

The acquisition of the $960,000 2021 GILLIG’S Zero-Emissions Battery Electric bus and $100,000 charging station and service upgrade was made possible through the Federal Transit Administration’s Low or No Emissions (Low-No) program.

On Jan. 17, the FTA announced that $130 million in program funding geared toward lowering emissions throughout the country’s transit systems was available for the 2020 fiscal year for the purchase or lease of low- or no-emission vehicles as well as related equipment or facilities. Owensboro was the only city in Kentucky that received funding, OTS system manager Pamela Canary said.

”We couldn’t be more thrilled,” she said. “This is an entirely new venture for us and is something that is completely out of our wheelhouse, which is extremely exciting, especially since we were the only ones in the state of Kentucky to receive the grant. It will require a new charging station and minor modifications so that we can facilitate the new bus. It will be exciting for our mechanics as well as they begin the process of learning what is required to maintain the new bus. It is a good thing all around.”

While some may be concerned about whether or not the GILLIG-Electric can handle the roughly 150-200 miles a bus route makes each day on a single charge, Canary said it can.

”One full charge will last 350 miles,” she said. “It is really an impressive piece of technology. The bus will have no problem fulfilling its route. These things have been put through every possible test over flat, steep and rugged terrains, and given that we are so flat, I wouldn’t be surprised if we could get more mileage out of a single charge.”

As far as if OTS is planning a full electric fleet, it is a possibility, but one that is further down the road.

”We will be testing this first bus to make sure it is what they say it is and that it works well,” Canary said. “You do not want to do a full fleet turnaround overnight because there is a great deal involved in the process, most important of which is that the bus serves its purpose and our mechanics are happy with it. We have considered the possibility down the road depending on how this goes and if future funding opportunities are available.”

For those ready to go green on their daily bus ride, there will be a bit of a waiting process, Canary said.

”We hope to begin the procurement process in the next 90 days,” she said. “GILLIG has been shut down due to the pandemic, so we are hoping that the new bus will be delivered within the next 12 to 18 months. We are all extremely excited about the acquisition and the opportunity that it will provide for our department and the community.”

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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