News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Northern California's First Battery Buses Rolling Out

Foothill Transit battery bus in Pomona | Photo: George Lumbreras/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons License

Here's some good news for Northern Californians who like to breathe: the first battery-powered electric buses in the north part of the state are rolling out in Stockton, thanks to the California Energy Commission. Two fast-charging buses will join the San Joaquin Regional Transit District's fleet in the city of Stockton, relieving a bit of the Central Valley airshed's air pollution problem.

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Relatively close to the Bay Area and its offshore winds, Stockton enjoys a bit cleaner air than some of its neighbors in the Central Valley. Still, particulate matter pollution is a serious issue in Stockton, with levels rising to the "moderate pollution" level or above more than half the time during the cooler months.

Particulate matter pollution has been implicated in cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as respiratory ailments and a host of other ills. As diesel exhaust is a major source of urban particulate matter, replacing diesel buses with zero-emission electric buses can only help public health -- not just in Stockton, but in those communities downwind with worse air such as Fresno and Bakersfield.

The buses, built by Proterra, were bought with a $2.56 million grant from the California Energy Commission through the AB118 Air Quality Improvement Program. Similar buses are now in service with Foothill Transit in Pomona.

The grant will also cover the cost of a sophisticated automatic charging station built by California company AeroVironment. Designed to simplfy the process of charging, the stations will recognize the buses as they approach, then guide the bus into proper charging position without the driver's help. A ten-minute charge will provide enough energy for two hours of travel.

"The San Joaquin Regional Transit District deserves to be congratulated as the first transit property in all of Northern California to put battery electric buses into revenue service. This is a major milestone, and a big first step in the effort to improve air quality in the San Joaquin Valley," said John Boesel, President and CEO of the clean transit group CALSTART.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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