If you catch the bus over the next couple of weeks, you might get to ride on an experimental electric bus – an e-bus.

For the first time, TriMet is test-driving an all-electric bus in the Portland area. And if it happens to stop at your stop, you’ll get a free ride – since the e-bus is not yet equipped with a fare box.

The electric buses, made by Chinese-owned Build Your Dreams (BYD) Motors, are also being tested in other U.S. cities (such as Manhattan, where the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rolled out a similar e-bus, shown in photo, last year) along with Canada, Europe and South and Central America. With a range of over 155 miles on a single charge, BYD e-buses meet an estimated 80 percent of urban transit needs, and are widely used in Shenzhen and other Chinese cities.

BYD’s e-buses use iron-phosphate powered batteries which the company claims are non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

In a press release, TriMet said the testing phase “will give the agency first-hand experience with a vehicle [TriMet] may purchase as part of a new Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant program in the near future.” TriMet has a grant request pending with the FTA for over $5 million which,  if  approved,  it would apply toward the purchase of nine BYD e-buses and charging stations.

Manufactured in China since 2010, BYD began building the e-bus in North America for the first time last year, in Lancaster, California. NBC reported in April the Lancaster plant was set to supply e-buses to California cities: the Lancaster-area Antelope Valley Transit Authority was to take delivery of the plant’s first two buses; and the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit District has committed to buy five buses, with an option for 20 more.

BYD is another Warren Buffett/Berkshire Hathaway investment that seems to be paying off.

Rebecca Webb

Rebecca Webb is the Founder and Team Leader at Portland Radio Project Listen Now

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