By Thomas P. Healy
As construction work continues on the Red Line Bus Rapid Transit corridor, IndyGo has taken delivery of the first of thirteen battery electric buses slated to go into service in 2019.
The K11 is a 60-foot battery articulated electric bus that holds up to 46 seated and 57 standing passengers and meets IndyGo’s requirements that it have a range of 275 miles on a single charge. Assembled in Lancaster, CA by BYD Coach & Bus LLC, the American affiliate of China-based BYD Company Ltd., 70 percent of its components are manufactured in America, according to Michael Austin, vice president of U.S. operations for bus manufacturer and complies with “Buy America” requirements stipulated by the use of Federal funds.
“This vehicle is fully Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards approved, which means it is fully approved by the United States Department of Transporation to drive on roads,” he said. Results from the “Altoona” stress test are due early in 2019.
Bryan Luellen, vice-president of public affairs and communications said the coach is currently being used for training of IndyGo trainers who will, in turn, train their colleages. “All drivers will receive training on the battery electric bus,” he said. Driver education is important since operations differ from a diesel bus and operators will have to adjust the way that accelerate and brake to maintain passenger comfort and optimum battery performance.
Driver and maintenance training is included in the price of the energy efficient coach which costs slightly more than $1.2 million per unit.
BYD’s Austin called the pilot coach a “plain vanilla” model which IndyGo can modify with change orders to add more bike racks (currently two are installed inside) or change placement of USB chargers for phones and other electronics. and cameras. “Currently all of our buses have at least 6 cameras,” Luellen said. “All of the BYD vehicles have cameras as well, so it’s not anything new for us. We’ll be upgrading camera technology and giving the operator a better view of the inside of the bus.”
As stipulated by its contract with IndyGo, BYD is planning to deliver the remaining 12 Red Line buses by the end of 4th quarter 2018 into the first quarter of 2019. “We’ve delivered on-schedule, on-time with this pilot bus and we anticipate receiving feedback after the 200 hours of training,” Austin said. Any change orders would be incorporated into the buses that are being manufactured now.
Luellen said the three rapid transit lines planned for the next couple of years will offer a new type of transit experience for Indianapolis. But transit riders are already reaping benefits from expanded service as part of the Marion County Transit Plan. “When you look at routes we improved in February and June we’re seeing more ridership increases,” he said. For example, Route 8 – which will become the Blue Line in the future – saw ridership increase 18% when frequency was increased from 30 minutes to 15 minutes on weekends.