- The transit agency in Anchorage, AK has launched a pilot for the city's first electric battery-powered bus.
- The four-month testing period will determine how the bus, a Proterra Catalyst E2, performs in winter weather and how cold temperatures affect battery life.
- The transportation department will use the data gathered during the pilot to determine if electric buses are feasible in Anchorage and if the city should pursue a fully electric fleet.
Incorporating electric buses into transit fleets is all the rage right now. Some transit agencies are adding a limited number of buses, like in Anchorage, and others are adding entire routes of all-electric vehicles, like New York and Stockton, CA. Los Angeles is among the cities going beyond just one route and working toward an entirely electric fleet.
While much of transit agencies' public-facing focus with electric vehicles is on energy efficiency and zero emissions, little is said about the long-term challenges and effects of the batteries. For example, what are the end-of-life and waste disposal implications for electric vehicle batteries, especially an entire bus fleet's worth? These conversations might go on behind closed doors, but the public rarely gets wind of them.
Anchorage is bucking that trend and making its concerns about EV batteries very public, namely their performance in cold weather. Testing one bus for a limited time is a smart move to make sure that taxpayer dollars aren't wasted on a permanent project that has the potential to be a big flop.
Previous testing out of MIT showed that electric batteries do not perform as well in cold weather as in moderate temperatures. The batteries themselves show limited functioning in the cold. Plus, some EVs have a heater to keep the battery warmer, but those that run off of the battery's power source have been shown to drain the battery quickly. The decreased battery operations and quick drain can drop the range a vehicle can travel on one charge by one-quarter to one-third, and extreme cold can drop that even further. Considering that Alaska has extreme and extended winter conditions, doing a test run on a modern electric-battery bus before going all in is a wise choice.