PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) unveiled the first bus in its new electric fleet on Tuesday.

In total, RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian said 14 “New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE NG” 40-foot battery-electric buses will replace the current diesel fleet on the R-Line, becoming the state’s first fully electric route.

The rest of the buses in the fleet will arrive over the next few months, according to Gov. Dan McKee’s office.

In 2019, RIPTA launched a pilot program with three leased all-electric buses. Avedisian says the pilot helped RIPTA learn about the new technology, train staff, and test the performance of the electric buses on a variety of routes.

The R-Line, which Avedisian says has the highest ridership in the state, connects Pawtucket and Providence.

“It serves multiple areas of persistent poverty and high asthma rates,” Avedisian said.

“The fact that we are targeting persistent high asthma rates is going to be important for the health and security for so many of our neighborhoods,” he added.

According to the governor’s office, the electric buses cost nearly $1.1 million each and are funded by the Federal Transit Administration, RIPTA capital funding, and the state’s Volkswagen settlement.

Since 2018, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed helped deliver over $37 million in federal funding to help RIPTA replace older diesel buses with new, clean-energy, cost-efficient vehicles and install the related charging infrastructure, including a $5 million Low-No Emissions Bus Grant to help purchase these R-Line electric buses.

“This goes along with another $5 million competitor grant and a $4 million earmark that the delegation got so that we could make sure that Aquidneck Island is electrified,” Reed said.

This month, Reed, along with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. Jim Langevin and Rep. David Cicilline, helped secure a $22 million federal RAISE grant for RIPTA to acquire 25 new electric buses and recharging infrastructure for Aquidneck Island’s bus service.

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According to the R.I. Department of Environmental Management, almost 40% of Rhode Island’s greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation.

“Replacing one traditional 40-foot clean diesel bus with a 40-foot electric bus like this one will save up to 135 metric tons of greenhouse gas annually, for each bus,” Cicilline said.

Avedisian says the fleet is just the beginning of a greener future for RIPTA.

“At the end of 2022, 20% of all RIPTA riders will be riding in electric vehicles,” Avedisian added.

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The arrival of the first electric bus comes after officials broke ground on an in-line charging station at the Providence/Cranston city line earlier this year.

After charging for an estimated five to nine minutes, the vehicle can return to service. The station will allow charging of up to three electric buses simultaneously, and will feature driver restrooms and an on-site snow-melt system.

The $6.7 million charging station project is also funded through the Volkswagen settlement and federal transit funding, and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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