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'We're pressing pause on' EVs: City's $5 million electric bus fleet breaks down
Jessica Morriss, Asheville's interim transportation director (Image Source: WLOS video screenshot)

'We're pressing pause on' EVs: City's $5 million electric bus fleet breaks down

Asheville, North Carolina, is looking to reinvest in biodiesel-powered buses after investing millions of dollars in an electric fleet that is only partly operable, WLOS reported.

Cities across America are starting to regret their massive electric bus investments as they continue to pour funds into costly, time-consuming repairs.

Asheville purchased five Proterra electric buses in 2018 for $5 million. Since then, the city has spent more than $200,000 to build vehicle chargers. Additionally, Asheville spends $118,000 annually for the contract to lease the buses' batteries and another $45,481 to charge the vehicles, according to Asheville's interim transportation director, Jessica Morriss.

"[I]f you added that altogether, I think, probably $900,000 to $1 million is what each one cost. And, since then, we've had to invest additional money into maintaining them and fixing them," she added.

Only two of the five EV buses are currently operating while the other three are out of service while awaiting repairs. The city reported that the faulty buses have had several software and mechanical issues since they were delivered. One of the buses has been parked since July because the city cannot obtain a manufacturer replacement for a broken door.

"We haven't been able to get new doors," Morriss explained. "There's no third party that makes a door. We'd have to get custom-made doors."

Morriss noted that maintenance costs, including replacing traction drive controls on all five buses, have cost the city an additional $251,000.

According to maintenance director John McDaniel, several EV buses have needed new power inverters, which cost $14,000 each.

Proterra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August after receiving $10 million in COVID relief loans from the Paycheck Protection Program in 2020, which were ultimately forgiven. The EV company, which President Biden has praised, also received other government incentives and support.

"Since June 2023, we have had numerous issues with vehicles out of service for weeks and months," Morriss stated.

The two operating buses in Asheville's EV fleet are not performing well in the colder winter months. McDaniel explained that the buses could travel only about 78 miles, equivalent to about three trips to the airport, before they must be charged for several hours.

With some of the buses broken down, the city is relying on its 32 biodiesel and hybrid buses to transport commuters. Asheville plans to spend another $550,000 each for two more biodiesel buses.

"There's some lessons here for sure. We're pressing pause on investing in any electric technology until we can assure the products we get are going to be able to work," Morris remarked.

In September, all eight electric Proterra buses in Jackson, Wyoming, were out of commission, Blaze News previously reported. The town switched to its diesel-powered fleet to keep operations moving. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority invested in 25 Proterra buses, which it has not been able to use for over three years.

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Candace Hathaway

Candace Hathaway

Candace Hathaway is a staff writer for Blaze News.
@candace_phx →