Graham Kilmer

MCTS Selects Electric Bus Manufacturer

MCTS is purchasing the first NOVA Buses in the U.S.

By - Mar 11th, 2021 06:18 pm
Nova LFSe+. Photo courtesy of MCTS.

Nova LFSe+. Photo courtesy of MCTS.

The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) has selected a manufacturer for 15 Battery Electric Buses.

Nova Bus, a Canadian manufacturer owned by The Volvo Group, was awarded the contract for the county’s first electric buses.

11 of the buses will run on the long-planned East-West Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, which is expected to be operational by fall 2022. The other four buses will be used on regular routes as a pilot program so the transit system can study how they perform.

The BRT is a $55 million project to build a nine-mile bus line that will run from downtown Milwaukee along Wisconsin Avenue and W. Blue Mound Road out to the Milwaukee County Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa. It will be a high-frequency service, with dedicated lanes along a parts of the route, traffic signal priority and off-bus fare collection.

The new buses are called the Nova LFSe+. They have a battery-distance of 247 miles, and will recharge at a station along the BRT line as well as in MCTS service facilities. During the winter a diesel-powered heater will keep the buses warm.

In a statement, the transit system said the new “ultra-modern buses” will provide passengers with a “quiet ride, comfortable seating, USB charging ports, off-board fare collection, and a bike rack.”

Passengers with disabilities will be able to enter the front or the back of the bus along the BRT line thanks to the buses wider aisles and the rapid transit line’s boarding platforms that will be level with the bus, MCTS said. A new self-securement system allows passengers using mobility devices to secure themselves.

County Executive David Crowley said “Alternative fuel buses represent the future of public transportation.” And added, “We’re excited to transition towards greener, more sustainable, and more efficient transit for our community. Innovative technologies like this help in our mission to advance racial equity and enhance the quality of life through great public service.”

The county board recently passed legislation that pumped the brakes on its policy towards electric buses. For now, the county has paused any future purchases of BEB’s until they can study the performance of the buses in this initial purchase. Instead, the county will purchase diesel-hybrid buses.

Previously, the county’s policy was to eventually replace every bus in the fleet with an electric bus or a diesel hybrid bus. That policy was the result of efforts by former County Board Chairman Theo Lipscomb, who was a steadfast proponent and argued for transitioning the entire fleet off of fossil fuels as soon as possible.

While the original 11 electric buses were tied to the BRT project from the start, the additional buses are the result of a budget amendment pushed by Lipscomb during the 2019 budget process that reduced the number of diesel buses to be purchased in subsequent years and replaced them with funding for electric buses.

The following year, Lipscomb managed to change the county’s policy regarding bus procurement, when he secured approval for an amendment that made it the policy of the county to eventually replace the entire fleet with electric buses or diesel hybrid buses.

The resolution recently passed by the county board that changed the county’s policy on fleet electrification, followed some concern expressed by transit officials about electric buses, which are more expensive, difficult to maintain and can be troublesome in extreme heat or cold. In Indianapolis, the local transit agency IndyGo had trouble with buses failing to hold a charge when the temperature dropped below 50 degrees.

Though IndyGo was operating electric buses manufactured by China-based BYD Auto Company, not the NOVA buses MCTS will run.

MCTS is the first in the U.S. to purchase NOVA Buses. Several key components of the bus will be manufactured and assembled by businesses in Wisconsin, according to MCTS. The buses operate on a traction motor and next generation powertrain produced by BAE Systems, an aerospace company based in the United Kingdom.

Nova LFSe+

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