MTA New York City Transit Takes Battery-Powered Bus on a Manhattan Test Drive

This week, Manhattan is the testing ground for a used transit bus that has gone through a phoenix-like transformation from a retired low-floor vehicle to a state-of-the art, all electric bus that could offer improvements in efficiency, emissions and performance over standard buses.


 The starting point is a retired 1996 bus that has been completely remanufactured with new, updated components, including flooring, interior, multiplexing, wiring and brake and suspension components. But the heart of the 40-foot, low-floor bus is a new zero-emissions propulsion system that operates without an internal combustion engine, features regenerative braking and offers a smooth, quiet ride.


“This is a first run of a new concept for the MTA,” said Henry Sullivan, Chief Maintenance Officer for the Department of Buses. “We currently operate clean diesels, hybrids and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) but we are always willing to examine new products and new technologies. There are a lot of questions and at this point we are evaluating how many hours of operation we can squeeze out of the batteries before they require charging.”


During its time with New York City Transit, the bus will be in “shadow service” for a couple of days, following in-service buses along their routes to determine the feasibility of running an all-electric bus in one of the most demanding bus environments in the world. 


The only passengers will be officials from the Department of Buses and representatives of the manufacturer, Complete Coach Works, of Riverside, Calif. The current version of the bus has an operating range of 95 to 100 miles, according to the manufacturer, which terms their system ZEPS for Zero Emissions Propulsion System.


The electric bus boasts a four- to six-hour charge rate system and is highly integrated with fewer parts, which should translate into faster installation and easier maintenance.  


“One of the first things we want to determine is whether an all-electric bus can stay in service during our stop-and-go duty cycle, which can often amount to a 20-hour workday for our buses,” Sullivan added.


While it’s too early say whether an all-electric bus is the future of surface transit in New York City, the MTA plans to continue examining the concept.