Even the MN Reformer admits electric buses are unreliable

You know it’s bad when even the Minnesota Reformer acknowledges that electric vehicles (EVs) have been too unreliable for use in Minnesota, but that’s exactly what they did in a recent article.

The article, which discusses several problems experienced with electric bus fleets in Minnesota, vindicates the work Center of the American Experiment has done on these issues for years. The article even offered up some new examples of electric buses being less useful and more expensive than their diesel-powered brethren.

Who’s in charge, here?

Duluth and metro-based Metro Transit both experimented with electric buses, and both have been burned in the process. Duluth’s fleet of seven electric buses has been a constant headache over the past several years.

Metro Transit’s electric buses have been out of order since March due to a problem with their chargers, and transit officials do not know when the buses will return to service. Good old diesel engines have picked up the slack. The Reformer notes:

To ensure they have enough buses for the C Line, the agency had to divert five existing diesel buses from routes serving the rest of the metro. The agency insists it hasn’t affected transit service overall.

Less range means less useful

American Experiment has been warning policymakers and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency about the greatly reduced range of electric vehicles during cold temperatures for years. While EV cheerleaders like Fresh Energy pretend these problems don’t exist, reduced range represented real-world problems for electric buses. According to the Reformer article:

The electric buses also can’t go as far as a conventional diesel bus, especially during the winter. Before Duluth’s buses were installed with diesel-powered heaters, the buses experienced a 60% loss in range on cold days because battery life was being used to heat the bus.

For Metro Transit, the electric buses lost 40% of their range in the winter. Any electric bus that operates in the state can’t truly be zero emissions for the foreseeable future, as both Duluth and Metro Transit’s electrics use diesel-fueled heaters to minimize the battery range loss.

All cars experience a loss in efficiency when it is cold out, but EVs lose much more range than traditional vehicles because gasoline and diesel-powered cars recycle the heat produced by burning the fuel and circulate it through the cabin to heat the interior.

EVs do not produce heat when they are moving, so they must cannibalize the electricity stored in the battery to generate heat. This is what results in decreased range and why these so-called “zero emissions” buses need to use diesel-fueled heaters to minimize battery range loss.

Sticker shock

Not only do electric buses suffer from reduced range in the wintertime, but they also cost a lot more than diesel buses. According to Metro Transit’s website, an electric bus costs $1.4 million dollars, compared to just $834,000 for a diesel bus.

However, buying an electric bus is not a one-for-one replacement for a diesel bus. According to the Reformer article, it would take three electric buses to do the job of one diesel bus:

…because of the technological limitations of electric buses, it’s not as simple as swapping out one diesel bus for an electric one. Both agencies believe they would need to buy around three electric buses to do the same job that a single diesel bus can do.

This means Metro Transit would need to spend $4.2 million on electric buses to do the job of a single $834,000 diesel-powered bus. In the private sector, no one would spend $4.2 million on equipment when they could spend $834,000, and get superior performance, instead. Thankfully, even Metro Transit understands this is a bad deal for Minnesotans.

Why mandate unreliable EVs onto the road?

It’s clear that diesel-powered buses deliver superior value and reliability than electric buses, but despite the real-world problems associated with these electric vehicles, Governor Walz decided to finalize his California car mandates, which will mandate automakers to stock approximately 14,000 electric vehicles in the state.

Gov. Walz defended his new mandates by saying, “Minnesotans certainly know that old adage, ‘You need to skate where the puck is going to be, the puck is going to be in EV vehicles, and that is irrefutable.”

Instead of stubbornly imposing California’s car mandates on Minnesota, Gov. Walz should have checked with the Transit agencies that have already tried unsuccessfullyto incorporate more electric vehicles into their fleet. If he had, he would have seen the irrefutable evidence that electric vehicles are unreliable, expensive, and decidedly not ready for prime time.