Extended-range electric buses supercharge TriMet’s zero-emissions push


Latest generation of GILLIG battery-electric buses could welcome riders aboard as soon as spring, improving our region’s livability and sustainability

On a partly sunny February day, the first of a new generation of zero-emissions buses rolled into TriMet’s Columbia Operations Facility.

The long-range battery-electric buses had been driven up to Portland from GILLIG’s manufacturing center in Livermore, California. On the way to their new home, they had to contend with freeway traffic and mountain passes. All told, they traveled some 650 miles.

And with TriMet, they’ll be traveling many, many more.

TriMet is driving ahead with our ambitious goal to have a 100% zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040. Our latest arrivals bring us one step closer to achieving this goal.

What’s new?

The first four buses from the order of 24 third-generation battery-electric buses — sometimes called e-buses — arrived earlier this month, and a fifth is on the way. More are scheduled for delivery this spring and summer. Some of the new electric buses could be in service as soon as this spring.

We’re building upon the successes we’ve seen with battery-electric buses already in service. Our first-generation battery-electric buses, which we introduced in 2019, are short-range buses that charge mid-route. Our second-generation battery-electric buses, like the new ones, are longer-range electric buses brought on board in 2021.

TriMet’s e-buses are popular with riders, who enjoy the quiet, smooth ride they provide with their powerful electric motors, as well as their eco-friendly technology. The new e-buses incorporate that same comfort and cleanliness, but with boosted battery life and extended range.

These new buses can hold more of a charge than our existing long-range buses, with a 33% boost to energy storage compared to our second-generation buses. Our testing will determine the effective range of the buses, which we estimate to be at least 150 miles year-round.

They’re also equipped for flexible charging. Unlike our previous long-range buses, these new buses have overhead charge rails that will allow them to be easily hooked up to TriMet’s fast charging stations in Beaverton, as well as charging ports they’ll use at our Powell Operations Facility in Southeast Portland, where they initially will be housed. We’ve already installed 24 plug-in chargers in anticipation of their arrival.

This is the largest expansion yet of our electric bus fleet. With these new vehicles, we will more than triple the number of e-buses in service with TriMet this year. That means many more riders will benefit, and many more neighborhoods will see zero-emissions buses rolling down the street on a regular basis.

What’s next?

Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be performing rigorous testing and inspections of the new e-buses for safety and efficiency.

Once we’ve completed our testing and inspections on each bus, we can begin welcoming riders aboard. Depending on how long this process takes, you could be riding on one of these new electric buses this spring, even before all 24 have arrived in Portland. Call it a “rolling start” for these new buses!

We hope to have the full two dozen in service by September.

In the meantime, we’ll be putting the buses through their paces. That includes determining exactly how far they’ll go on a single charge under normal conditions, getting a sense for the effects that city traffic, hilly terrain and weather have on battery life. We’ll also be making sure that the safety features on each bus, such as our on-board cameras, are working properly.

Our operators will also be getting comfortable with how the new buses handle, and our mechanics will be learning their (literal) ins and outs.

While we’re still determining when and where we’ll be rolling out each bus, our goal is to bring more zero-emissions buses to areas where improving air quality will benefit vulnerable populations. That goal is in keeping with our Green Corridors Plan, which guides us as we do our part to reduce air pollution and create a healthier, more livable region.

Switching to renewable diesel for our fixed-route diesel buses and WES trains has reduced TriMet’s emissions by nearly 70% since 2022. Reaching zero emissions by 2040, however, means investing in new emerging technologies like battery-electric buses. Our electric bus fleet runs off of 100% renewable electricity.