Battery-Powered Buses Coming to the T

Date: Mar 15, 2019

As the MBTA modernizes its vehicle fleet, it’s also looking to cut down on pollution. Diesel buses are some of the most notorious belchers, attributed to high asthma rates in urban areas. To begin replacing them, next month the T will receive its first battery-powered buses.

“Battery-powered buses is a technology we are looking at. We decided we’re not going to purchase any more diesel buses,” said Steve Poftak, general manager of the MBTA.

Electric buses that use overhead trolley wires have been around since the days of streetcars, but battery buses are a new thing. One place they’ll be deployed is on the Silver Line between South Station and Logan Airport, where specially made diesel-electric buses are powered by trolley wires for half the trip and diesel for the rest. The battery buses will eliminate that switchover — once they’re proven to work.

“We’re waiting for someone manufacturing electric buses at scale that can handle the demands of Boston and Greater Boston weather,” Poftak said.

A good place to test that is in Minnesota, where the winter is even harsher than Boston’s. The city of Duluth is testing seven battery-powered buses for the Federal Transit Administration.

One reason Duluth was selected for the test, said Phil Pumphrey, general manager of the Duluth Transit Authority, is its extremely cold climate.

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