Zero-emission buses that use no fuel are coming to Minnesota

The electric-battery, zero-emission buses should arrive in 2019.
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Buses with no tailpipes are on their way to the Twin Cities. 

Well, they're not literally on their way because they haven't been built yet. But Metro Transit says a new rapid bus route that starts running in a couple years will use six brand new battery-electric vehicles.

And these aren't hybrid buses – they'll use no fuel at all.

The zero-emission buses will be built in St. Cloud by New Flyer, which says it's North America's biggest maker of public transit buses.

For 15 years Metro Transit's fleet has included hybrid buses that are powered by both diesel fuel and electricity. They've now got 134 of those. But the agency says the new buses just ordered from New Flyer will be their first that don't use fuel.

Why is this a good thing?

No exhaust means the new buses (which are New Flyer's Xcelsior model) won't be polluting the air, making them healthier for the people around them and for the environment in general. 

The chair of the Metropolitan Council, Alene Tchourunoff, said there's an economic benefit, too: "This technology not only reduces pollution, it makes our transit system less vulnerable to drastic increases in fuel prices," she said in the announcement. 

According to the Center for Transportation and the Environment, battery-electric buses also cost less to maintain than diesel fuel ones.

They'll be on the C Line

The new buses will run between downtown Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center. They'll be part of a new "rapid bus" route slated to open in 2019. 

Rapid bus routes (like the A Line that runs on Snelling Avenue) are designed to be faster than regular ones.

New charging stations will be installed at the Minneapolis bus garage and at the Transit Center in Brooklyn Center. Metro Transit says a full charge will let one of the new buses go 150 miles. 

The C Line will use as many as 14 buses, so the zero-emission ones will be only part of the fleet. 

A nationwide push

A federal grant of $1.75 million helped cover some of the cost of buying Metro Transit's new buses and charging stations – and training for mechanics to know how to care for them. 

That was one of the largest of more than 50 similar grants the U.S. Department of Transportation made around the country. 

The Transportation Department has a program encouraging transit agencies to move to zero-emission buses. In fact, the U.S. is in a "friendly competition" with China called the Race to Zero Challenge, with each country trying to spur demand for zero emission buses.

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