Three all-electric buses begin south Seattle service amid larger vehicle-electrification push

Mar 31, 2022, 4:22 PM | Updated: 5:02 pm
King County Dow Constantine the opening of the test charging facility for Metro’s battery-electric fleet in Tukwila (King County)
(King County)

Weeks after the Washington state Legislature passed its $17 billion infrastructure package with an emphasis on transitioning to electric transportation options— included in the package is Clean Cars 2030, an effort to electrify all “light duty” vehicles with model years 2030 and after— Western Washington took an incremental step towards its climate reduction goals signaled by the state’s recent passage of carbon reduction legislation.

On Wednesday, King County Metro, alongside regional civic and transportation partners, began running three all-electric city buses out of the city of Tukwila. A now-operational test charging station at King County’s South Base will have a capacity for 40 all-electric coaches by the fall of this year.

The buses will be a mix of 40 and 60-foot designs. The former has 76 person capacity with a 220-mile range on a single charge; the latter has 120 person capacity and a 140-mile range.

“We’re just really excited that we have this testing facility so that we can help determine some best practices and be able to identify how other cities and other metros could roll out programs like this,” Jenn Strang, a spokesperson with Seattle City Light, a partner to Metro in Wednesday’s rollout, told MyNorthwest.

“It’s a win for the community, a win for the partners, and there are people that are in the community tangibly benefiting from it even now.”

The rollout dates back to 2020 when King County announced a contractor, New Flyer, for the electric buses. Metro reports that it is on track to have a fully battery-electric fleet by 2035. In 2020, the transit agency announced it had retired the last of its diesel-powered coaches.

“There is a state in the union that is going to be first to be all-electric, somebody will get to the finish line first,” Sen. Marko Liias, transportation chair, tells MyNorthwest.

“Because we’ve got such clean energy in this state, and by 2030 will be net carbon zero, thanks to the Clean Energy Transformation Act, let’s be first. We’re going to have net-zero energy by then. Let’s be the first to be fully electric. Let’s set up the incentive. Let’s set up the infrastructure. Let’s plan on how we get there. Let’s do it intentionally to be the first state to be all-electric.”

The three coaches that began operation yesterday will service Metro’s Route 193, which spans Federal Way to Seattle’s First Hill. The charging station will have the capacity for nine buses simultaneously, generating enough electricity to power 192 homes.

“This is a test space, then any future charging facilities will need a lot more power than we’re accustomed to providing for a transit facility,” Lucie Huang, an energy analyst with SCL, told MyNorthwest.

“We’ve had such a long-running efficiency program at Seattle City Light, and it’s focused on buildings. It’s to such a point that now, of the emissions from the Seattle area, 37% come from buildings, and 60% are from transportation. That’s another reason we’re prioritizing electrification of vehicles, and particularly fleet vehicles at this time.”

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Three all-electric buses begin south Seattle service amid larger vehicle-electrification push