An electric bus pilot program is coming to the Southside

The electric buses that HRT will use have already made a few visits to HRT locations for employees to ride and try out. The HRT logo will be affixed to the outside of the buses before the deploy in December 2020. (Southside Daily/courtesy of Tom Holden)
The electric buses that HRT will use have already made a few visits to HRT locations for employees to ride and try out. The HRT logo will be affixed to the outside of the buses before they deploy in December 2020. (Southside Daily/courtesy of Tom Holden)

NORFOLK — Hampton Roads Transit was the recipient of $3.9 million in state funding to buy six new electric buses and seven charging stations.

The funding came as part of more than $12 million in state money which will be exclusively used to deploy electric transit buses in three Virginia localities: Alexandria’s DASH transit program, Blacksburg’s Transit Program and HRT.

In total, 17 electric buses and charging infrastructure will be used by local transit systems in Alexandria, Blacksburg and Hampton Roads, Gov. Ralph Northam announced.

Nearly $9 million of the funding will come from the Environmental Mitigation Trust the state received as part of its settlement with Volkswagen, Northam said.

Funding recipients must buy the electric buses and place them into service within two years.

The use of electric buses is expected to reduce operational costs for transit agencies through savings from lower fuel and maintenance costs. They are also expected to avoid tons of carbon emissions and pounds of nitrogen oxide emissions, according to the governor’s office.

The money HRT got is not the only funding they will be using to deploy the pilot program, said Ray Amoruso, chief planning and development officer of HRT.

HRT has been working on the grant process to receive enough funding to buy the electric buses starting about three years ago.

After receiving two federal grants and now the state grant, HRT has a total of $7.8 million to buy six, 40-foot all electric buses plus parts, seven charging stations, funding to retrofit their 18th street facility for charging stations and funding for workforce training to use the new equipment, Amoruso said.

The long-term goal of HRT is to transition all of its diesel buses — about 300 — to electric buses, he said.

Zero emissions at the tailpipe is the ultimate goal, said Tom Holden, spokesman for HRT.

Engineers have estimated the cost of maintaining electric buses will be much cheaper over time, Amoruso said.

Starting December 2020, HRT hopes to begin its pilot program with the six electric buses using Bus Route 20 as the path, Amoruso said.

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