CTA Plans to Purchase 20 Electric Buses With En-Route Chargers Next Year

At first, the CTA would pilot a small fleet of five buses along Chicago Avenue.

Electric bus in Cologne with en-route charging. Photo: Steven Vance
Electric bus in Cologne with en-route charging. Photo: Steven Vance

The Chicago Transit Authority intends to buy a small, fully electric bus fleet to begin testing route next year. The buses would charge their batteries at the terminals and at stops along the route. The CTA issued a request for proposals last month seeking a company to build and install the buses and chargers.

The RFP indicates that the CTA would test the buses on Chicago Avenue, as it specifies that chargers should be installed at Navy Pier, the intersection of Chicago and Austin Avenues, and at the Chicago Avenue bus garage at Pulaski Road. The CTA wants to purchase a minimum of 20 and up to 45 electric, standard length buses.

En-route charging has enabled electric buses and trams around the world to ply normal routes all day. In Cologne, Germany, for example, an articulated bus will lay over at a stop near the main train station for up to 10 minutes. While there it lifts up a charging mechanism and, faster than the latest smartphone charging technology, gets a sufficient jolt of electricity to travel to the next charger, or beyond.

New CTA Electric Bus
One of two electric buses made by New Flyer that the Chicago Transit Authority uses. Photo: Jeff Zoline

The bus depicted above has been in service since the beginning of this year. It partially charges only at the ends of the route, and entirely, overnight. Some trams use a similar technology so cities don’t have to put up overhead wires in historic city centers, including in Seville, Spain.

CTA has operated two electric buses, manufactured by New Flyer, in revenue service since 2014. Catherine Hosinski of the CTA said that electric buses are quieter, and have “significantly decreased emissions, which improves the quality of air and life for both our riders and general public.” Hosinski also said that “the operation of one all-electric bus is estimated to save up to $300,000 in fuel costs over the 12-year lifespan of each bus.”