Metro Transit doubles down on EV bus failures 

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported last week that Metro Transit is ordering 20 new electric buses before 2026. Perhaps Metro Transit has forgotten the sorry saga of electric buses in Minnesota, but we haven’t. 

Electric buses first stumbled in 2019 as the eight buses on the newly-formed C Line were taken out of service due to defective charging mechanisms. Metro Transit idled its fleet of electric buses in March 2021, and it took about a year to resolve ongoing charging issues. The transit agency reported a “high number of service calls compared to its diesel buses,” and “blown fuses and premature transformer failure,” on the chargers.  

Recognizing these problems, Metro Transit stepped back from EV buses and proposed a contract to employ biodiesel buses instead, although “the majority of the mix is diesel.” The impact of switching diesel for EV buses on Minnesota’s carbon emissions will be negligible, and biodiesel would do even less, considering Metro Transit’s emissions constitute only 0.4% of 0.7% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.  

In Duluth, electric buses were pulled from service because they struggled on Duluth’s hills and the cold weather put heavy demands on the buses’ heaters. The buses have since been fitted with diesel heaters (which, of course, produce carbon emissions themselves). 

In exchange for less-reliable service and dubious climate benefits, 20 EV buses will be acquired at an enormous cost, per the Star Tribune:  

“The new shorter buses will be Metro Transit’s first 40-foot buses, the type used on most local routes. The Met Council last week approved a $34 million contract with California-based bus manufacturer Gillig to build the buses and provide charging equipment. A grant from the Federal Transit Administration is covering $21 million of the cost.” 

That comes out to an average cost of $1.7 million per bus and associated charging equipment — though federal taxpayers will foot all but $620,000 of each through the Federal Transit Administration’s grant. The Star Tribune also notes that “the agency also plans for 20% of new 40-foot buses it buys in the future to be electric,” so expect costs to multiply. 

The COO of Metro Transit, Brian Funk, admits that the “savings on fuel haven’t offset the extra costs of the buses themselves.” It seems he’d agree with us that the technology isn’t ready for primetime, since he acknowledges that “the technology is not quite there yet.” 

Metro Transit should remember its primary goal is reliable transit service. While new EV purchases will double down on failure, there are better uses of taxpayer money than purchasing more expensive and less reliable transport — simply to virtue-signal about one’s “green” initiatives.