The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 as its Board of Directors unanimously approved a transition plan to convert all of the agency’s 800 buses to zero emissions by 2040. Photo courtesy MTS

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System began construction Thursday on an $8.5 million bus charging system capable of boosting 24 electric buses at a time.

Nathan Fletcher, chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, who also leads the MTS board, called the project “a leap forward for environmental justice, sustainability and clean air” that also brings the agency closer to having a zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040.

“In order to stay on the forefront of technology, MTS looked at solutions to maximize our land use, and the overhead charging system not only is the most innovative technology yet,” he said, “it provides the infrastructure necessary to keep buses in service and yard operations running effectively.”

The system can be expanded to add more charging capacity as MTS transitions its fleet to all-electric over the coming years.

MTS will use the Schunk SLS 301 series Depot Charging Pantograph, which offers a quicker and safer hands-free electric vehicle charge.

Gretchen Newsom, political director for IBEW 569, which represents more than 3,500 local electrical workers, said it’s critical to have “a skilled workforce to build” such a system.

“That’s what IBEW 569 provides,” she said. “We look forward to working with MTS as it continues to expand its electric footprint at the other bus divisions in the coming years.”

According to MTS, buses can be docked in the depot in seconds and fully charged in just a few hours.

Construction is expected to be complete by early 2023 in time for the new Iris Rapid route, which will consist of 60-foot electric buses serving a busy South Bay corridor between Imperial Beach and Otay Mesa.

MTS has plans to build similar overhead gantry charging systems at its other bus facilities by 2028.

San Diego Gas & Electric has a program, “Power Your Drive for Fleets,” that supports organizations like MTS working to transform their fleets to zero-emissions.

“Public-private collaboration to accelerate the transition to clean vehicles of all types – from passenger car and buses to trucks and forklifts – is absolutely necessary to meeting our region’s climate goals,” said SDG&E Vice President of Energy Innovation Miguel Romero.

– City News Service