Photo by Kaitlin Oki /Nevada Sagebrush

By Lauren Huneycutt

Flashy paint jobs of lime green electricity waves and blue lightening streaks are vibrant images on the sides of new electric buses driving on the Regional Transit Commission’s Sierra Spirit route.

The four electric buses are the first of their kind to be used in a major transport system in Nevada.

The buses are the product of a $4.6 million grant from various government agencies.

According to KTVN, “the federal government chose the Truckee Meadows as part of a demonstration project, partly to find out how well the battery-operated buses work in both cold and hot weather.”

Rick Lewis, who has been driving for RTC for the last four years, loves his new position driving the electric buses.

“I drove all the other buses before this,” Lewis said. “The feel of the electric bus is similar to that of the hybrids, but these are so much quieter, and it’s really nice.”

The buses are designed with eight batteries, and the only charging station is at the fourth street bus hub. To charge the bus, the driver simply drives under a hooded area and lets the computer charger do the rest.

RTC has 71 buses, 18 of which are diesel-electric hybrids. Even though the electric buses are roughly $200,000 more expensive than the hybrids at $700,000, city-planning experts say this cost will be made up in fuel prices over 12 years, and that half a million dollars will be saved on fuel per vehicle.

It can take anywhere from two to ten minutes for the battery of the electric bus to rejuvenate, depending on how long it has been since its last charging.

“Mechanically these buses are about the same, there are just a few little quirks you have to get used to when you drive them,” Lewis said.

The electric buses are zero emissions and can travel up to 55 miles per hour.

“I couldn’t be happier to be working this route,” Lewis said.

Lauren Huneycutt can be reached at lhuneycutt@sagebrush.unr.edu.