Southern California Community Electrifies Entire Bus Fleet

  • Author: Laurel Schwartz
  • Date: October 10, 2023

Antelope Valley, CA is a small city with a median household income of $52,441, almost 38% lower than the state’s median income. Almost a quarter of the community’s population is below the poverty level and more than 12% of residents suffer from asthma, significantly higher than the national average.

To clean up the air and support their community, the Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) transitioned to a 100% all-electric fleet. Since the last diesel bus was taken offline in January 2022, AVTA estimates that they’ve saved 1,750,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 41.58 million pounds of CO2, and $2,362,500.

AVTA serves about 450,000 people over 1,200 square miles.


Logistical challenges

Antelope Valley, CA opens to the Mojave Desert, prompting high summer temperatures that routinely hit triple digits. Winter nights fall below freezing temperatures. Several of AVTA’s routes are 150 miles or longer, prompting range anxiety for the battery capacity of the buses.

Fortunately, the trip for buses on their longest fixed route is mostly downhill. The electric coach commuter buses, manufactured by MCI, has a regenerative braking system that converts the kinetic energy into a recharge for the battery when the bus goes downhill.

Buses recharge overnight in a centralized bus yard that will soon be powered exclusively by a nearby solar field. In between overnight charges, buses charge while drivers are on their breaks or layovers at 12 WAVE near-field chargers, installed in the asphalt at four different bus bays.

While operators complain that the chargers can be finicky, they no longer breathe in the diesel fumes when waiting for the vehicle to warm up during cold weather. One veteran operator told Curbed online magazine that the fumes from the conventional engine vehicles would often give her headaches.


Creating local jobs

The project was funded in part by a $28.5 million grant from the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP) administered by Caltrans and the California State Transportation Agency as part of the California Climate Initiatives program.

Most of the fleet’s buses are made at the nearby BYD bus factory in nearby Lancaster, CA. As part of a community benefits agreement, the bus manufacturer reached out to underrepresented people to hire workers, including formerly incarcerated people. Hourly wages for entry-level jobs are comparable with jobs at nearby military contractors. Per the agreement, BYD also offers training programs and apprenticeships.

In 2022, ATVA was recognized by the Federal Transit Administration for being the “Most Accomplished” transit agency to fight climate change through the Sustainable Transit for a Healthy Planet initiative.



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