'Easy decision to make': Duke plans to add two new electric buses to its fleet

Duke may save nearly $1 million in transportation costs as the University expands the number of electric vehicles on campus.

According to Duke Today, the University's upcoming acquisition of two new electric buses and an electric car will put Duke on track to meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2024. The new buses will go into service in July 2020, and the car will arrive on campus by the end of 2018.

“This was an easy decision to make,” DePinto said in a news release. “The buses are clean, quiet and support our goal of becoming a climate-neutral institution.” 

Each electric bus will seat up to 40 passengers and they are set to go into regular rotation on Duke's campus in July 2020.

The new buses will together save the University $924,000 through their lifetime, according to administration estimates. The average Duke bus operates for around 15 years, although that varies based on use, wrote Carl DePinto, director of parking and transportation services, in an email to The Chronicle. 

The buses will be built by Proterra, a California-based company that specializes in electric buses and charging. The two buses will replace two of Duke's diesel vehicles. 

“Duke joins a growing list of forward-thinking educational institutions implementing Proterra electric vehicle technology and creating healthier campus communities,” Proterra CEO Ryan Popple said in a press release.

The buses release zero tailpipe emissions, and do not require gas or oil changes to run. The expected range of the battery-powered vehicles is 200 miles on a single charge—more than enough to meet daily transportation needs on campus, according to University administration. According to tests, the buses will be able to sustain a full day of use without the need for charging breaks. 

"We tested the electric buses based on our routes prior to purchasing to ensure the battery life can sustain a day of use without breaks for charging," DePinto wrote in an email to The Chronicle. 

The University has not yet decided which routes the buses will serve. Campus bus routes are likely to change, as Central Campus is set to be decommissioned at the end of the current academic year. 

Along with the buses, Duke Parking is adding another all-electric vehicle–a Chevy Bolt. The Bolt runs 238 miles on a single charge and brings a handful of high-tech capabilities to the Duke vehicle fleet. 

The vehicle is outfitted with a computer-controlled camera that automatically reads license plates. The Bolt also does not require oil changes, and will join the fleet by the end of 2018.

“The Chevy Bolt is a huge win because we’ll never have to put gas in the vehicle,” DePinto said to DukeToday. “It’s a huge perk in terms of maintenance and sustainability.” 

Despite this optimism, DePinto said that the administration plans to wait to assess the performance of the vehicles on campus before committing to any future expansion of the University's electric vehicle fleet. 

"We plan to assess how these new electric vehicles perform before making decisions to expand the fleet of electric buses in the future," he wrote to The Chronicle. 


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