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The Daily Tar Heel

Electric buses to be reconsidered by Chapel Hill Town Council

Chapel Hill Town Council will reconsider the possibility of electric buses as a way to reduce emissions.

Fred Lampe, Chapel Hill resident and retired business consultant, petitioned the council to further evaluate the possibility of electric buses in Chapel Hill in response to the plan to procure new diesel buses.

Brian Litchfield, director of Chapel Hill Transit, said they will procure heavy duty diesel buses this year in conjunction with GoTriangle and the city of Durham.

Lampe said this is what inspired him to petition the town council about the possibility of electric buses.

"It just occurred to me that that seems like a very strange thing to do in this day in age," Lampe said. "Diesel is a very, very old technology."

Lampe said his main concern is the outdated information in the town's current analysis.

“I don’t want to criticize what they provided me, but it just isn’t correct information," Lampe said.

The town's analysis estimates the cost of one electric bus as $1.2 million and each charging station as $1 million, but more recent studies suggest the cost has gone down.

Complete Coach Works, bus re-manufacturer, is now able to refurbish old buses to make them run on electric power for the same price as a new clean diesel bus — around $580,000.

Thirteen Chapel Hill Transit buses were refurbished by Complete Coach Works in 2005. 

Additionally, Lampe said electric buses now have a range of up to 160 to 200 miles, whereas the 2013 town analysis estimated a range of 40 miles. 

Lampe said this means the town would only need one charging station to fuel all Chapel Hill routes, reducing the projected cost of $6.5 million by approximately half.

“Transit staff will coordinate a response to the petition after it has been reviewed and discussed by the Transit Partners Committee,” Litchfield said in an email.

Lampe said he would like to see the town do a full, credible analysis, including a life cycle analysis and forward based forecasting information.

“It’s clear at this point in time that the town has not done a credible analysis,” Lampe said. “What they have done is some casual fact finding.”

Chapel Hill Town Council member Michael Parker said he thinks the town staff should do further analysis.

"I always think it's worth looking into," he said.


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