LOCAL NEWS

EXHAUSTED: Electric transit buses in Utah and the hope for a carbon neutral future

Feb 9, 2024, 8:24 AM | Updated: 9:09 am

SALT LAKE CITY — At first glance, the electric buses now buzzing around the Wasatch Front look much like their diesel brothers. Yet when one approaches, it’s noticeably quieter and “all-electric” marks the upper region of each bus’s exterior.

“The chief advantage for the state of Utah is we don’t have pollution in our airshed from electric buses,” claimed Hal Johnson, Utah Transit Authority’s director of innovative mobility.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, one zero-emission bus can eliminate 1,690 tons of carbon dioxide over its 12-year span.

More than 30 — 34 to be exact — all-electric buses are part of the 406 full-size bus fleet that UTA operates in Utah. The transit agency also employs 47 clean natural gas buses along its routes.

The number of electric buses currently running amounts to 8% of all buses.

According to UTA Executive Director Jay Fox, the transition to electric is deliberately measured.

“I would say we are being deliberate about how we enter this market,” Fox said. “Building a network that can support the electric buses is really important to get to what is known as a zero-emission plan as a whole.”

That plan eventually calls for a fleet where diesel buses make up about 50% of the total number. The other half would be natural gas and electric buses. Diesel buses can run all day without refueling while electric buses need a charge every 150 miles or so. Also, all-electric is not ideal for much of Utah’s challenging terrain.

And then there’s cost.

An all-electric bus comes in at $995,000 each, batteries not included. While natural gas and diesel buses price out in the $600,000 range.

Nonetheless, a carbon-neutral future may not be far off, according to Fox.

“You’re going to see a carbon-neutral focus for the coming Olympics,” he said, referring to the likely staging of an Olympic Games here in 2034.

Today, a few of those electric buses are monitoring our air in real-time. Researchers from the University of Utah are collecting air quality data from those buses to get a sense of the dynamic nature of pollution.

Atmospheric sciences professor Daniel Mendoza heads up the research program. The mobile units enable scientists to collect vital numbers from all over the region.

“The burden of air quality is not shared equally,” Mendoza said.

“So, for example, we’ve measured that on the west side of Salt Lake City, West Valley City as well, because they’re in closer proximity to the railroads, to the airport, to some industrial sources, to the highways, there’s just more air pollution. And this really doubles, or triples during inversion events.”

Minimizing UTA’s contributions to those events in the future is the hope of the agency’s leadership. The 10- to 15-year plan calls for as many as 200 buses to be all-electric. The carbon output would be significantly less as a result.

“So, any difference that we can make creates a better environment for all Utahns,” Fox said. “Makes us environmentally responsible. I have a personal stake in it as well. I want to breathe well. I’m sure all of our customers want to and all the residents here in the Wasatch Front.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

Some good Samaritans came to the aid of Joey Espinoza after he had a medical emergency during a rec...

Shelby Lofton

Good Samaritans take action after Tooele man is badly burned at a campsite

A Tooele County family is thanking the good Samaritans who saved their father's life during a camping trip emergency. 

3 hours ago

Longtime announcer Lloyd Newell speaks as Derrick Porter is announced as the new voice of the Taber...

Hanna Seariac, Deseret News

Lloyd Newell bids farewell after 34 years of bringing inspiration from the Crossroads of the West

A few minutes before the broadcast “Music & the Spoken Word” started, Lloyd Newell walked up on stage at the Conference Center, like he’s done many times before. But this time, it was different — it’s his last time.

4 hours ago

tooele county sheriff's office...

Mark Jones

Skydiving accident in Tooele County sends one person to the hospital

A skydiving accident Sunday afternoon in Tooele County sent one person to the hospital, according to the Tooele County Sheriff's Office.

5 hours ago

emergency lights...

Mark Jones

5 juveniles hospitalized following early-morning crash in South Jordan

Police say five juveniles were hospitalized early Sunday morning following a one-vehicle crash.

6 hours ago

A group of teenagers were climbing up rocks at a hiking spot in Utah County when a large boulder br...

Brianna Chavez

Search and rescue crews faced difficult challenges in rescue of injured 16-year-old boy

A group of teenagers were climbing up rocks at a hiking spot in Utah County when a large boulder broke loose and struck a 16-year-old boy on Friday. The boy suffered a broken femur, according to the Utah County Sheriff's Office.

7 hours ago

The Main Library in Salt Lake City is pictured on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. (Scott G. Winterton, Dese...

Kennedy Camarena, KSL NewsRadio

LISTEN: The end of libraries?

SALT LAKE CITY — These days, just about everything is electronic, including books. This begs us to ask the question, could we be seeing the end of school and city libraries? KSL NewsRadio’s host of A Woman’s View Amanda Dickson discussed this topic on the show with three guests. 👇 Ronda Menlow, former state representative […]

9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

EXHAUSTED: Electric transit buses in Utah and the hope for a carbon neutral future