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Greening the Steamship Authority

The Steamship Authority has put three electric buses on the road to help transport passengers to and from its terminals in Woods Hole and Hyannis.

The buses, each costing a million dollars, were paid for in part through two grants totaling $875,000 the Authority received in 2019. One was from the Volkswagen Settlement Grant Program administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the other was awarded under the federal Transit Administration’s Low or No-Emission Program.

Steamship Authority General Manager Bob Davis said the grants were a vital step toward “greening” the ferry line.

“As a self-funded public agency, any funding we receive that does not come from our fare box, is a great relief to our customers, especially the residents of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket who rely on us as their lifeline.”

On the inaugural ride of one of the new vehicle Davis said its part of a move to more electric vehicles on land and sea.

“Twenty-five percent of our bus fleet will be electric before the end of the year. And for our vessels we've done an electrification study and there are some hurdles we need to be able to conquer, but at some point we will be going to at least a hybrid version on some of our vessels,” Davis said.

The new electric buses will be part of the fleet that transports 850,000 passengers annually between the Hyannis terminal and the Yarmouth Road parking lot in Hyannis and the Woods Hole terminal and the Palmer Avenue parking lot in Falmouth.

Davis said the electric buses are well-suited to the parking lot to terminal routes. “The technology is here for the buses and this application in terms of the distance from our terminals to our parking lots is ideal for this type of use.”

The 40-foot long, low-floor buses and the necessary charging infrastructure were purchased from BYD North America. They were delivered in June and bus drivers spent time this summer familiarizing themselves with their operation.

The Authority will also take delivery of an additional four electric buses and charging infrastructure from Gillig LLC of California.

The new electric buses are 40 feet long and can carry up to 60 passengers with 35 seated. They have a range of 225 miles at an operating efficiency of 2.16 kWh/mile. Charging time is 3 to 3 and a half hours.

John Basile is the local host of All Things Considered weekday afternoons and a reporter.