Foothills Transit unveils its new Ecoliner bus

Mercer 10108

Felicia Friesema

A new kind of electric bus hits the road today here in southern California. It will carry a full load of passengers over 30 miles, stop for ten minutes, and fully recharge its batteries.

A new kind of electric bus hits the road today here in southern California. It will carry a full load of passengers over 30 miles, stop for ten minutes, and fully recharge its batteries. The inventor points out the obvious: that’s a lot less time than it takes to charge your cell phone.

What makes the new Ecoliner bus unique is its charger, said Doran Barnes, the executive director of Foothill Transit, which serves passengers in LA’s eastern suburbs.

“Electric buses have been around for a long time, but with the advances in lithium ion batteries, we’re able to have the battery pack accept a very quick charge, allowing for the in route charging,” said Barnes.

The prototype is twice as expensive as a regular bus – a little more than $1 million – but it'll last 18 years instead of only 12 for a standard bus. Foothill Transit recently cut back on bus service because of declining tax revenue.

But the transit provider got federal stimulus dollars. Barnes says that money couldn’t go toward day-to-day operations, so…

“We really looked to the green economy and the advancements in battery power in terms of the way we use the dollars.”

The Ecoliner bus is more efficient because it’s built of fiberglass like the other vehicles the body manufacturer makes: yachts.

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