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Washington State News

First Fully Electric Buses Begin Service in South Seattle

The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The opening of a charging facility in Tukwila is the first step in replacing King County’s whole bus fleet with electric buses by 2035.

On March 31, leading members of the King County Metro and Seattle City Light joined Major Bruce Harrell, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Tukwila City Council member Kathy Hougardy to celebrate the launch of the battery-electric bus charging facility along with three fully battery-electric coaches that went out into service that day.

The three coaches were created by a Canadian-based manufacturer, New Flyer. The battery-electric coaches are servicing the Metro’s route 193, which carries passengers from Federal Way to First Hill in Seattle.

The price per bus was approximately $925,000 a piece for two 40-foot buses, and $1.3 million for one 60-foot bus, according to King County figures.

Vehicle Maintenance Analyst Jeff Long explained the details of the new coaches to the audience at the charging facility. Long said that the 40-foot buses will do about 220 miles on a full charge while holding up to 78 people and the 60-foot bus will go about 158 miles on a full charge while holding up to 120 people.

Executive Constantine opened the presentation with an emphasis on how the buses will help with reducing carbon emissions.

“We don’t know everything yet about how we are going to get to a zero-emission fleet by 2035, but that doesn’t mean we are not going to commit ourselves to do it anyway,” Constantine said. “We don’t have all the technology yet but we do know that we have to do it if we are going to live up to our responsibility for this planet.”

These three coaches are a new piece of history for King County Metro’s history of eco-friendly transportation. Terry White, the King County Metro General Manager, talked about how they have been an industry leader when it comes to clean air.

In 2004, the Metro introduced its first hybrid diesel-electric coach. Thirteen years later in 2017, they released their first generation of clean battery-electric hybrid buses. In the fall of 2020, Metro retired the last of their fully diesel-operated coaches. 

“This [charging facility] represents what’s next and we are excited to finally begin to put it to work,” White said. “Today is the next step in our continuing commitment to a cleaner environment for our riders and for our community.”

The charging facility will be home to the first 40 long-range battery-electric buses. The coaches will go on routes to serve communities that rely on the Metro’s regional mobility network.