Anchorage Public Transportation director Abul Hassan said the city is looking into buying electric buses when it comes time to replace its fleet of diesel powered People Mover buses. The city is leasing a single electric bus from a California Company for the next four months to see how well it performs in cold climates.

"This is an opportune time in 2018 to bring in something and say, how does it work? As opposed to going out with an RFP (Request for Proposals) and saying, we are going to buy electric vehicles but we've never tested them out," said Hassan. 

Hassan said the city will need to replace ten People Mover buses in the next four years and he believes electric, battery powered buses may be the way to go. One of the advantages, he said, is a lot less pollution. He pointed out that electric buses don't even have tailpipes.

"You are getting rid of about 95 percent of the greenhouse emissions that would be emitted by diesel," he said.

Hassan said electric buses are more expensive up front -- they can run close to a million dollars, nearly twice the cost of a diesel bus. But the federal government, he said, would pick up 80 or 90 percent of the tab.

"Even if it is a million dollars, all you are saying is, locally, we would be investing a hundred thousand dollars for a vehicle," said Hassan. He added that lower maintenance costs for an electric bus would allow the city to recoup their costs within two or three years.

But electric buses do raise questions about whether they would be a good fit for Alaska, particularly, how long batteries will last in extended cold weather. Hassan said the only way to know for sure is to give them a try.

The leased bus will begin picking up passengers starting Tuesday.

Hassan said they've identified routes where the electric bus will have to operate between six and seven hours a day He seemed confident things would go well.

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