Proterra has won a contract to provide two of its carbon fiber electric buses to the ASUM, the student led transportation system at the University of Montana, according Its formal name is Associated Students of the University of Montana and it was founded in 1999 by a student referendum. Since then, it has a history of promoting student governance and providing a safe and efficient transit experience for the university’s population.
15,000 riders a week now use the ASUM campus transportation UDASH routes. In 2015, total ridership exceeded 400,000. The service is free and available to students, faculty, and visitors to the school. The system accounts for 14% of all trips to and from campus.
ASUM’s decision to order two Proterra 40-foot Catalyst Fast Charge buses and one semi-autonomous fast charger signals its intention to replace is diesel powered fleet with emissions free vehicles. The buses are expected to begin operating in September 2016. They will immediately benefit local air quality. Over the average 12 year lifespan of the buses, 1392 tons of carbon dioxide emission will be kept out of the atmosphere.
A critical factor in choosing the Proterra buses was their total cost of ownership. Their initial cost is higher than traditional diesel buses, but they will cost much less to operate. Over their useful life, they should require $135,000 less for routine maintenance costs, and that is on top of reduced fuel costs because electricity is less expensive than diesel fuel.
“The purpose-driven Catalyst design affords the best efficiency rating ever for a 40-foot transit bus, at 22 MPG equivalent,” said John Sleconich, Chief Engineer at Proterra. “Proterra buses are the only mass transit vehicle built from the ground up as an electric vehicle. With a unique aerodynamic body made from carbon fiber and advanced composite materials, we are able to reduce mass for maximum efficiency.”
ASUM was also able to finance the purchase on favorable terms through the state of Montana’s INTERCAP program. It also received a Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for $163,191. Those grants are designed to improve public health through reducing emissions and particulate matter from diesel engines.
One of a handful of student led transit agencies in the United States, ASUM is a leading the movement that sees sustainable transport as a priority rather than a luxury. The Porterra electric buses will also help the University of Montana meet its goal of being a carbon neutral campus by 2020.