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These Zero-Emissions Electric Buses Will Soon Hit The Streets Of Peoria

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Hannah Alani
/
WCBU
Selena Kyle of the Natural Resources Defense Council speaks during the unveiling of three electric-powered buses in Peoria on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021.

Three brand-new electric-powered buses could hit the streets of Peoria as early as next month.

The Greater Peoria Mass Transit District, also known as CityLink, unveiled the three new 35-foot buses on Wednesday. Each zero-emissions bus is expected to save about 230,000 pounds of greenhouse gases annually.

CityLink received $2.3 million in funding for two of the buses and accompanying charging stations in July 2019 from the Federal Transit Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, as part of the Low or No Emission (Low-No) Bus Program.

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., said the pending federal infrastructure bill — currently moving through Congress — could unlock even more funding for electric buses and other projects to address climate change in central Illinois.

Bustos said she expects to review the final bipartisan bill later this month.

“What you see behind us, there’s more to come,” she said Wednesday during an unveiling of the three electric-powered buses. “We’ve got to do this for our kids, we’ve got to do this it for our grandkids, we’ve got to do it for future generations.”

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Hannah Alani
One of three zero-emissions electric buses hitting the streets of Peoria next month.

CityLink contracted South Carolina-based Proterra to manufacture the buses. Dale Hill founded Proterra in 2004 with a dream to turn all American buses into zero-emissions-producing vehicles.

In Peoria on Wednesday, Hill said Proterra is unique among competitors in that the company is vertically-integrated, manufacturing every piece of equipment themselves somewhere within the United States.

Hill said he hopes Peorians take pride in being part of a worldwide “paradigm shift” in responding to climate change, predicting that by 2040, 80 to 90 percent of all buses will be electric.

“To think that we were the ones that were pioneers in making that happening, is very humbling,” he said.

Unlike other electric buses, Proterra vehicles position their batteries underneath the center of gravity of the bus, below the floor in the center of the vehicle.

This makes Proterra buses the safest on the market; the batteries aren’t close to either bumper, which is where collisions typically take place, Hill said.

Funding for the new buses was thanks in part to the E.D. Edwards coal-fired power plant in Bartonville.

In 2019, a judge ruled Edwards had violated the Clean Air Act. The plant was ordered to close by 2022 and to pay a $8.6 million settlement toward environmental projects.

Of that, $1.23 million went toward paying for one of the three buses that will hit the streets in Peoria.

Selena Kyle works for the National Resources Defense Counsel, one of the plaintiffs in the Edwards lawsuit.

Her group worked with CityLink to design a bright blue wrap for one of the buses that features text bubbles with information about electric buses.

For example, two connected text bubbles read, “Most buses just go round in circles … My zero-emissions electric engine is moving Peoria into the future.”

Seeing the buses finally unveiled nearly moved Kyle to tears.

“It’s wonderful to see a fight like that turn into something tangible and positive for the community,” said Kyle, adding there are additional ongoing settlement-funded projects around town.

CityLink already has four hybrid buses, in addition to a large fleet of diesel buses. City Link mechanics are now learning how to work on the three electric buses.

@wcburadio

A fleet of 3 zero-emissions busses will soon hit the streets of peoriail. Not pictured: how QUIET these things were! #illinois #infrastructure #bus

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Corey Sebens is the president of the local chapter of the Amalgamated Transit Union. He has worked for CityLink for 16 years.

He looks forward to driving the quieter, smoother electric buses.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I haven’t had the chance to drive one yet, but I will, just to get the feel of it, to see the quietness, and how it drives. A lot of the older buses, the diesels, there’s a lot of rattling, loudness.”

The average life span for a diesel-powered bus is 12 years or 500,000 miles. The electric buses are replacing buses that have been in use for nearly 20 years.

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