Greenlink, Greenville’s bus service, hopes to start using battery-powered buses made in Greenville by Proterra in about two years. It all depends, however, on whether it can secure about $5.6 million from the Federal Transit Administration.
Greenlink has sought federal funding to buy battery-powered buses many times before without success. Its latest application for federal funds, however, differs from previous ones.
The application that Greenlink filed last month marks the first time it has tried to tap an FTA program called “Low-No” that’s designed to promote low-emission or no-emission vehicles such as the buses Proterra makes at its local factory.
Clemson’s bus service, Clemson Area Transit, or CATbus, was awarded nearly $4 million through the program last year and is using the money to buy 10 battery-powered buses on top of six it already operates.
Greenlink hopes to procure six Proterra buses.
September 2019 is the earliest they could be deployed under Proterra’s manufacturing schedule, according to Gary Shepard, who runs Greenlink as public transportation director for the City of Greenville.
He said Greenlink is allowed to specify a particular bus manufacturer when applying for funds under the Low-No program.
Buying Proterra buses is a “win/win/win,” Shepard said.
Greenlink gets the replacement buses it needs, he said, and a local manufacturer lands new business at the same time.
In addition, he said, Greenlink will pollute less with Proterra buses because they don’t have emissions and save energy costs because Proterra buses are more energy-efficient than diesel-powered buses.
Greenlink is promising a “local match” valued at nearly $1.4 million as part of its application for the federal funds.
More than $500,000 of the match is cash from the state government, a private foundation called Hollingsworth Funds, and other private sources, Shepard said.
He said the balance of the match would be in-kind contributions from Proterra — bus chargers and possibly a bus — depending on how much federal funding is approved.
A spokesman for the FTA said the agency is expected to award more than $55 million in Low-No funds later this summer.
Proterra is based in Burlingame, Calif., but Greenville is home to the biggest of its two factories as well as its vehicle engineering.
The company, which moved to Greenville as a startup in 2010, has sold more than 400 buses to 38 different transit agencies in 20 states, according to Greenlink’s application to the FTA.
In Clemson, CATbus has taken bids from three electric bus makers — Proterra, New Flyer, and BYD — said Keith Moody, the bus service’s interim general manager.
“We have a couple more meetings scheduled” before a decision is made about which bus brand to buy, he said.
He said the 10 new electric buses will be deployed on routes serving Clemson University. CATbus already operates six Proterra buses on Seneca routes.