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Science & Environment

Steamship Authority to Welcome Electric Buses

Electric vehicle charging station at Cronig's Market in Vineyard Haven.
Eve Zuckoff
Electric vehicle charging station at Cronig's Market in Vineyard Haven.

The Steamship Authority announced it will welcome a pair of electric buses to its fleet to transport passengers between parking lots and ferry terminals in Falmouth and Hyannis.

That’s thanks to two grants—one state, one federal—which add up to $875,000. The monies will help the authority switch from diesel to batteries, which will, in turn, help the agency reduce its carbon footprint and join the larger trend in the transportation sector toward electrification.

“Anywhere where we can reduce our carbon footprint, it’s something we look into,” said Robert Davis, general manager of the Steamship Authority. 

As well as reducing the authority’s carbon footprint, Davis says, the buses will make for quieter overall ride, which will benefit customers and neighbors in Falmouth, Woods Hole and Hyannis.

It’ll take 12-15 months to get the charging infrastructure in place and the buses on the roads, Davis said, but that process won’t begin until January when the authority reviews the grant specifications in its capital budget review.

Electric buses cost about $350,000 more than diesel buses depending on the size and charging capacity, Davis said, but the cost is worth the savings to the environment.

“We’ll continue to seek out ways to be able to offset the cost differential on these programs, at the very least.” 

This opportunity was made possible by two grants. The first, administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection from the Volkswagen Settlement Grants program, provides the authority with $500,000 to put towards the electric buses. The second grant, worth $375,000, came from the Federal Transit Administration’s Section 5339 (c) Low or No-Emission Program (“Low-No”).

Around the world, ferry-operators have also begun purchasing electric ferries, but, Davis said, the agency isn’t ready for that.

“The question becomes the battery storage—whether it’ll be able to provide us with the necessary power to be able to make the runs uninterrupted, but it’s something we continue to look at.”


In Massachusetts, the transportation sector is responsible for as much as 40% of the state’s carbon emissions.

“We operate our buses from parking lots here in Falmouth to Woods Hole. We also have bus operations in Hyannis for our parking lots there, so this is the right thing to be doing.”