City of Charlotte transitioning fleet to electric vehicles

CHARLOTTE — The city of Charlotte is striving to have city fleet and facilities fueled by 100% zero-carbon sources by 2030.

City leaders highlighted electric vehicles and two new charging stations during a news conference on Thursday.

The city currently has 43 electric vehicles. Models include the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt, Chevy Volt, Kia Niro and Proterra electric buses.

Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt said there is an appetite by Charlotte City Council to purchase more electric vehicles faster but global supply chain issues are making it difficult.

“There’s a backlog right now with a lot of vehicles,” she said. “We would love to accelerate this but you can only do it so quickly.”

Perhaps the biggest public impact for electric vehicles can be felt at the airport. The city of Charlotte currently has five electric buses in rotation and has plans to use electric buses exclusively at Charlotte Douglas by 2027. According to Aviation Director Haley Gentry, 10 more buses are in the pipeline. The airport had 70 diesel buses.

“These buses are cleaner,” Gentry said. “They are much more efficient to operate.”

Each bus costs $786,114, according to a spokesperson for the airport. The charger set up for the next five buses is a two-charger system that will each charge three buses in series, taking less than three hours per bus.

The cost per charger is $67,365 or $22,452 per charging location. Those costs are covered by FAA VALE grants. The VALE grants cover 100% of the cost of buses and associated chargers.

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport has invested $2 million in rehabilitating the rear lot with power and pavement so 25 charges can be placed there, according to a spokesperson.

Each new bus does not need accompanying infrastructure. According to the airport, the first round of chargers came with one charger per bus. The chargers set to arrive this year are a three-in-one setup that charges three buses all using the same primary power unit.

The buses that will come as part of the FY23 grant fund will not come with any additional chargers. The airport anticipates ordering chargers with the buses every other year.

The buses at CLT-Douglas are pivotal for dropping off and picking up passengers. They drive in circles all day and burn a lot of fuel. In past years, buses have used more than 500,000 gallons of fuel per year. In FY21, the diesel buses burned approximately 368,000 gallons, even with the impact that COVID-19 had in FY21.

Regardless of fuel type, all buses have an estimated 12-year life cycle, the airport said. But due to the conditions at Charlotte-Douglas, buses typically wear out more quickly and are usually on an 8-10 year rotation. The city estimates electric buses will last 12 years.

Gentry expects a 90% reduction of operating costs versus a typical diesel bus.

“The maintenance savings and the fuel savings come out on top every time,” she said.

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