Two battery electric buses, like this one, will soon be a familiar sight around Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach. The two BSOOB buses are now in service. Courtesy Photo/BSOOB

BIDDEFORD — Two new electric buses have been deployed on established BSOOB transit routes in Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach.

“We received the new buses a month ago, all the training and field testing has been done, and they’re now in service,” said BSOOB Director Chad Heid.

It has taken some time — the agency was awarded a federal grant for the buses in 2019. They were ordered then, said Heid, but the supply was slowed during the pandemic and so the agency took delivery of the vehicles later than planned.

The battery-electric Proterra ZX5 buses — along with two destined for Greater Portland Metro — were unveiled Monday, May 16, at a ceremony at Ocean Gateway in Portland. The first electric buses to provide fixed-route public transit in Maine in more than 20 years began serving their respective communities soon thereafter.

“These buses aren’t just cutting emissions,” said Governor Janet Mills, who attended the event. “They’re also cutting costs. These battery electric vehicles will cost us 60 to 80 percent less to power than diesel fuel buses, reducing our reliance on expensive fossil fuels.”

“Today we’ve taken an important step toward reaching these transit agencies’ goal of zero emission fleets. It’s the kind of climate change mitigation we need, and I’m grateful to all who worked to get these first electric buses on the ground in Southern Maine,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.

“Electrifying transportation provides a key opportunity to confront climate change while giving Maine people more accessible, affordable ways to get around,” said Sen. Angus King.

The 35-foot buses were acquired using federal and state funding and cost approximately $900,000 each. Proterra, the bus manufacturer, estimates the bus has a range of 240 miles on a single charge. The buses operate at up to 25.1 miles per gallon-equivalent, about five times more efficient than diesel buses, proponents say. They were manufactured at Proterra’s facility in Greenville, South Carolina.

Heid said BSOOB is working with the city of Saco to finalize plans for implementing enroute chargers for the buses — the transit agency received a $1.2 million grant for the chargers from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Low and No Emission Vehicle Grant Program, Sen. Susan Collins announced in June 2021. The enroute chargers will allow the buses to be charged in the middle of the day, providing a “fast boost,” to their capacity, said Heid.

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