Million-dollar buses for Duluth

A Proterra bus via their company website

On Wednesday, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Congressman Rick Nolan, (MN-08) announced that the city of Duluth would be receiving $6.34 million from federal tax dollars to purchase six new electric buses and two battery charging stations.  The Duluth News Tribune quoted Congressman Rick Nolan, “these buses and charging stations mark another remarkable step forward in building a quieter, cleaner, safer and more environmentally friendly transportation system that residents and visitors alike will use and enjoy.”   The buses will replace existing diesel buses.  An additional $1.1 million in local funding is also required, for a total cost of $7.5 million to start operating the six buses sometime next year.

The US Department of Transportation’s Low emissions/No emissions (LoNo) program rewarded $54.5 million to ten different transit agencies back in February to purchase electric or hybrid buses, the majority of which come from Proterra.  The company has a manufacturing facility in Greenville, South Carolina with its executives located in the San Franciso Bay area.  The company recently received $30 million in venture capital financing per the Wall Street Journal.  Proterra itself was awarded a $3 million California Energy commission grant to establish a second manufacturing facility in Southern California.

According to Next City, a non-profit that promotes green energy, Proterra’s buses sell for about $800,000 each, that’s $300,000-$400,000 more than a diesel bus and $100,000-$200,000 more than a hybrid bus.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, the city’s extreme cold weather helped it beat out others to secure the funding.  The paper reported in February that “the buses take under 10 minutes to charge and, in cold weather, are expected to run 25 miles between charges.”

Dennis Jensen, manager of the Duluth Transit Authority told Northland News: “We anticipate that each bus will save us hundreds of thousands of dollars over its life time,” Jesnsen said, “Our regular buses, we have to keep for 12 years, and I was talking to the factory representative on the way over and they’re anticipating these buses can be operated up to 18 years.”

The buses will use the brand new $27 million dollar Duluth transit center, which is also funded by the federal government via a $16 million grant in addition to $6 million in state funding, and $1.4 million from private investment. The Duluth Transit Authority will pick up the tab for the rest per the Pioneer Press.    The center will featured heated sidewalks and room to store bikes for bus-riders.