One of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System’s new battery-powered buses. Courtesy MTS

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System will begin testing next week a fleet of electric buses that the agency calls a “strong step forward” in clean transportation.

MTS has purchased six New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE battery-electric buses with a 150-mile range from a Canadian manufacturer for the 18-month test. The vehicles are painted green and white instead of the normal red and white to highlight their clean power.

The pilot program begins Nov. 4 with testing on eight routes: 1, 2, 4, 10, 13, 815, 905 and 936. Following several weeks of trials, the buses will go into passenger service in late November.

“Our new electric buses represent a strong step forward to a greener, cleaner and better connected transit system in San Diego,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who chairs MTS and also serves on the California Air Resources Board. “The leadership of MTS should be applauded as we take new technologies and push us towards a greener future.”

MTS was one of the first transit agencies to convert its 800 buses to compressed natural gas, which is cleaner than diesel fuel. State regulations require public transit agencies to gradually transition to zero-emission fleets by 2040.

Officials noted that many MTS routes are less than 150 miles, making them ideal for conversion to electric power.

“Getting these buses on the roads will immediately improve the air quality in the communities we serve while arming us with the performance data and operational insights necessary to build an effective transition plan,” said MTS Chief Executive Officer Paul Jablonski.

The $12.5 million pilot program is funded by grants from Caltrans, the Air Resources Board, various state programs and the MTS capital improvement program.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.