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OGDEN — The Utah Transit Authority is test-driving a new first-of-its-kind, high-tech vehicle that could one day take passengers along the Wasatch Front with less noise and no air pollution.
The agency Monday became one of the first in the country to test a prototype bus manufactured by Chinese-headquartered BYD Company. The initials stand for “build your dream.” The firm is the world’s largest manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries.
According to UTA Maintenance Administration manager James Baxter, the agency is committed to improving air quality along the Wasatch Front, and this kind of vehicle is among the choices UTA will review as it considers its future fleet options.
“We’re committed to looking at (compressed natural gas) and advanced fuel technologies to advance air quality,” Baxter said. “We are looking evaluating this (electric bus) technology.”
BYD has recently begun to put its vehicles into service, said BYD bus operator Ray Munoz.
The bus being examined by UTA will be tested on routes where it could one day be used on a regular basis, said UTA vice president of operations Jerry Benson. The routes include the already operating bus rapid transit route in Taylorsville and planned routes in Provo and Davis County, he said.
This is (us) looking to the future. What are the possibilities? What can we do to benefit the public? What can we do to best use the moneys that we have and take care of our customers?
–James Baxter, UTA Maintenance Administration manager
The BYD bus measures 60 feet long and is articulated, bending in the middle to allow for better cornering. The bus, a prototype, can transport up to 120 passengers and company officials said it has the longest drive range in the industry of 170 miles on a single charge.
Baxter said there are no immediate plans to add an electric bus to its fleet. Last July, UTA tested another all-electric bus by South Carolina-based manufacturer Proterra. The 40-foot vehicle has an initial cost of about $825,000.
UTA has more than 600 buses in its fleet, including 24 compressed natural gas buses, with as many as 20 more CNG vehicles to be added in the next year.
“(Compressed natural gas) is our next step,” Baxter said.
He said that UTA is working to determine routes that would be best suited for electric vehicles, but there is no timetable for adding any to the fleet.
“This is (us) looking to the future. What are the possibilities?” he said. “What can we do to benefit the public? What can we do to best use the moneys that we have and take care of our customers?