The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments unveiled an all-electric, zero-emissions bus Friday for its Clean Air Express service.
County, state and federal officials gathered in Buellton for the launch of the 45-foot battery-electric, commuter bus.
The SBCAG in partnership with Caltrans purchased the all-electric intercity bus. The bus cost $850,000 with $500,000 funded by the state through SB1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.
The Clean Air Express is a weekday commuter bus service between Santa Maria and Lompoc and employment locations in southern Santa Barbara County.
The bus is a novelty, according to Lauren Bianchi Klemann, public information manager for SBCAG.
“There are only a handful of these types of buses that have been put into operation nationwide,” she told the News-Press. “It is quite unique that we were able to provide this bus for the community of Santa Barbara County.”
The Clean Air Express battery-electric bus features a 220-mile range that easily meets the longest round trip in service of 150 miles from Santa Maria to Santa Barbara. The all-electric bus combined with the replacement of a diesel bus eliminates 450 tons of CO2 annually, equivalent to CO2 emissions from more than 80 residential homes’ electricity use for one year.
Through a partnership with Central Coast Community Energy, the bus is charged at SBCAG’s Transit Facility in Goleta with 100% renewable electricity.
“The distinction of the bus is that it is an inter-city bus. The bus travels in the range of hundreds of miles,” Scott Spaulding, rail and transit director for SBCAG, told the News-Press on Friday afternoon. “It’s a brand new product on the marketplace. Only a handful of these buses are in operation. The difference is the distance that the buses travel.
“The range of the coach type of bus is much shorter,” he said. “Most transit agencies are hesitant to operate electric buses longer distances.”
The Clean Air Express serves more than 7,000 passengers each month with nine round trips during the business week. The commuter bus will serve the residents of Lompoc, Santa Maria, Buellton, Solvang and adjacent unincorporated areas in North County, who will be commuting to jobs in Goleta and Santa Barbara.
“We know that transportation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States,” said Das Wiliams, a Santa Barbara County supervisor and chair of the SBCAG board.
“A switch to cleaner, quieter and smoother public transit options is a switch in the right direction, one that is imperative for our future — for our children and neighbors,” said Mr. Williams, who was among the officials who spoke at Friday’s unveiling.
“Today we see just how the zero-emission vehicle industry’s evolving technology is changing the game for long-range transportation options improving the efficiency, experience, and commuter benefits to save energy and the environment,” Mr. Williams said.
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, also spoke at the ceremony.
“I am proud to see the progress the county has taken,” Rep. Carbajal said. “The introduction of this all-electric bus accelerates our step toward a cleaner future.”
The congressman pointed to the county’s continued efforts to fight climate change.
“Not to mention, this vehicle plays an important part in modernizing our transportation infrastructure,” Rep. Carbajal said.
Other officials speaking at the ceremony included state Sen. Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, who joined Rep. Carbajal in cutting a ribbon.
“All-electric buses serving long-distance commuters are the way forward to cleaner and healthier transportation options for all Californians,” Sen. Limón said. “I am proud that Santa Barbara County is among the first communities in the nation to provide an all-electric commuter bus as California transitions to zero-emission public transportation vehicles.”
Other officials at the ceremony included Supervisor Gregg Hart, Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne, Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte and Buellton Mayor Holly Sierra. All of them are members of the SBCAG board.