Will the Salmon Runner be Rolling Coal?

By Ed Marek –

The Shasta Regional Transportation Agency will meet April 27 to consider approval of its 2040 Long-Range Transit Plan Final Report. The draft should be rejected because it largely ignores the replacement of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) with battery electric vehicles (BEVs). The only way to “insure the region meets its established greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets under SB 375″ is by developing our BEV charging infrastructure to give drivers an alternative to the fossil fuels monopoly.

The SRTA’s deviation from State and National BEV policies (and common sense) is shown by its aborted plan to operate the Salmon Runner electric bus service to North California, and the diversion of funds to diesel buses. The Record Searchlight reports:

“…SRTA could never find an electric bus able to make the 175-mile, two-and-a-half-hour trip to Sacramento without needing a charge…SRTA hopes to have an outside contractor fill in and operate traditional diesel motor coaches along the Redding-to-Sacramento route…”

Excessive range is unnecessary and detrimental to efficient operation. The SRTA draft states, “The I-5 Backbone will use five 40 foot plus buses, with three vehicles charging in Redding each night and two charging in Sacramento” requiring an “absolute range” of 238 miles, to move a projected ~86 passengers a day. That is too many buses and too few grid connections to move those passengers. Unlike ICEVs that waste time and money with trips to a gas station to refuel, BEVs can be safely and immediately refueled anywhere electricity is available. By placing high kW fast chargers where BEVs will stop, waiting for charging BEVs can be effectively eliminated.

Privately owned BEVs refuel conveniently while parked. Once public fast charging infrastructure is fully implemented, BEV drivers will not have to wait to charge during long trips. Fast chargers will be available at restaurants, convenience stores, and other rest stops. By starting out with hundreds of miles of driving range, and adding another five to fifteen miles miles of range for every minute parked en-route, only those eccentrics who prefer an empty bottle to a rest stop will ever need to interrupt a drive, just to refuel.

The Salmon Runners carry their own restrooms, but the SRTA ignores other charging opportunities along I-5. The plan includes three passenger stops between Redding and Sacramento. The buses will be plugged in and begin to fuel as soon as they reach each stop, and gain several miles of range per each minute. After recharging for about an hour at the route ends at Redding or Sacramento, they can load passengers for the return trip. Each bus will make several trips along the ~175 mile route per day. Fewer buses with smaller battery packs will be used, lowering costs dramatically, if en-route fast charging is included in the proposal.

Grid connections capable of supporting high kW fast chargers are expensive, but additional benefits make them worth it. That high kW capacity, which the buses will need to prioritize only intermittently, will be made available to all vehicles bringing passengers to and from the bus stops, multiplying the public benefits. There are no major cost or engineering barriers to electric buses. We can soon have safer, cheaper, and far less polluting Salmon Runners carrying us up and down I-5, and far more rapid adoption of BEVs everywhere else in North California, if the draft is corrected. It should be rejected in favor of a revision based on economic and environmental realities already accepted by our State and Federal governments, with the required emphasis on the replacement of ICEVs on our roads.

Ed Marek lives in Oak Run

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