“We would very much like to get started with electric vehicles as a region and more than just GoTriangle,” said Mann.
The $980,000 buses include maintenance supplies such as charging stations. The seven buses that would be purchased would come from Proterra, a manufacturing company that produces low-emission vehicles.
If GoTriangle is awarded the grant, Proterra is offering to contribute $175,000 to the costs of the buses as well.
GoTriangle's decision to apply for the low-emission buses comes from the increased range the Proterra buses provide, which had been a concern with electric buses in the past.
Noreen McDonald, the chairperson of the UNC city and regional planning department, said in an email statement that the Federal Transit Administration estimates an electric bus costs 19 cents per mile — versus 84 cents per mile for a conventional bus.
"Put another way, for the same $1 in operational costs an electric bus can travel 4 times as far,” said McDonald.
McDonald said electric buses will also provide health benefits. She said reductions in air pollution have been shown to reduce respiratory diseases like asthma.
Nikhil Kaza, a city and regional planning professor at UNC, cautions that electric buses have not yet been proven to be superior to diesel buses in respect to the environment. One study concluded electric buses were preferable to diesel buses in only eight states.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport received a similar grant in August 2017. The federal grant that RDU received will cover half the cost of four Proterra buses at $1.6 million. RDU predicts the four electric buses will prevent 16.9 million pounds of greenhouse gases from entering the environment. RDU’s buses will be available for use in 2019.
The regional grant for which GoTriangle is applying will announce its winners this September. If the company wins the grant, Proterra estimates that the first buses could be delivered by December 2018.