The Milwaukee County Transit System has selected a vendor to build its first battery-electric buses, which will be used on the county's $55 million bus rapid-transit route.
The contract is with Nova Bus, a Canadian bus manufacturer that's part of Sweden-based Volvo Group.
Nova Bus will produce up to 15 all-electric LFSe+ buses, according to a news release. The first 11 vehicles will run exclusively on the upcoming east-west BRT line, and four will be used on regular county bus routes.
Each bus costs around $1.1 million, MCTS spokesperson Kristina Hoffman said in an email.
“Alternative fuel buses represent the future of public transportation,” Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said in a statement. “We’re excited to transition towards greener, more sustainable, and more efficient transit for our community. Innovative technologies like this help in our mission to advance racial equity and enhance the quality of life through great public service.”
Several key components of the buses will be built and assembled locally, at businesses in Pleasant Prairie, Racine, Greendale, Pewaukee, Elkhart Lake and Manitowoc, the release states. MCTS did not immediately provide a list of the businesses performing the work.
Milwaukee County was recently awarded a $40.9 million federal grant, which covers nearly 80% of the total BRT project cost. The federal grant will likewise cover most the cost to build the 11 BRT-exclusive buses.
The other four buses are to be partially paid for by a Low or No Emission program federal grant, Hoffman said.
The BRT line will run from downtown Milwaukee to the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center complex in Wauwatosa, along Wisconsin Avenue and Bluemound Road. It will offer quicker service than traditional bus lines due to features like dedicated lanes, raised bus platforms and traffic-signal prioritization.
MCTS is targeting for a construction start in June, Hoffman said. It could start taking riders as early as fall 2022. The new electric buses are expected to arrive in summer 2022.
The process of selecting a construction contractor is ongoing. Hoffman said the first round of qualifications is complete. The second round of bids is due April 5.
The battery-electric buses can operate up to 247 miles on a single charge. Batteries will be recharged at MCTS’s maintenance garages and at a designated charging station along the BRT route. Diesel-powered heaters will help warm the passenger compartment during winter months.
The buses will come with USB charging ports, off-board fare collection and a bike rack. Riders who use mobility devices will be able to enter the bus through either the front or back doors, thanks to wider aisles and level boarding via the new BRT platforms.
Milwaukee County is the first in the U.S. to order LFSe+ vehicles from Nova Bus.
“As MCTS makes its first step to alternative fuel vehicles, Nova Bus will be there to support the technology that keeps Milwaukee moving,” Martin Larose, vice president and general manager at Nova Bus, said in a statement. “Our Nova Bus LFSe+ buses represent our commitment to providing a more environmentally and economically efficient transit system.