Port Authority airports will compete a step to reduce the smell of diesel exhaust fumes ahead of schedule.
Conversion of its fleet of airport diesel shuttle buses to battery powered electric buses will be finished three months ahead of schedule, Rick Cotton, the Port Authority’s executive director, said Thursday.
“Three months earlier than we committed, we are on track next month to have all 36 all electric buses in service at our airports,” Cotton said at the authority’s board of commissioners meeting. “Our commitment was to make 100% of our shuttle fleet fully electric and we will achieve that in the days ahead.”
The bus conversions is part of the bi-state agency’s larger commitment to convert 50% of its fleet of light duty vehicles to electrics, he said.
The first 18 Proterra electric buses for use in shuttle service at its three major airports went into service in June 2019. The first buses went in service at Newark Liberty International Airport on the airport’s 24/7 shuttle on June 14, 2019.
In 2018, authority made news after officials pledged to follow the Paris Climate Agreement and reduce emissions 35% by 2025 and 80% by 2050.
Cotton said those goals maybe reached sooner.
“We are looking at if have capability to reach those targets sooner,” he said. “We were the first public transportation agency to embrace the Paris climate accord.”
While the electric buses are part of the plan, using solar power at airports and other facilities and fuel cell generated electricity at 1 World Trade Center in Manhattan are part of the authority’s effort to reduce emissions. The agency also announced a clean construction plan, designed to reduce greenhouse gases.
Technically, these are the first electric transit buses in service in New Jersey. NJ Transit is conducting an eight-bus test in Camden and recently approved a contract to outfit a bus garage there with bus charging infrastructure and the needed power upgrades.
NJ Transit started four electric bus studies to electrify 20%, 50%, and 100% of the fleet at four garages – Newton Avenue in Camden, Hamilton, Hilton in Maplewood, and Greenville in Jersey City.
While the agency is working toward a commitment to switch to electric bus purchases by 2032, officials are moving cautiously to avoid making mistakes made by transit agencies in other states with electrification, said NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett.
Environmentalists lobbied NJ Transit to start using electric buses in cities such as Newark, Camden and Jersey City, which they said have high rates of respiratory diseases caused by exhaust and particulate from diesel vehicles.
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Larry Higgs may be reached at [email protected].