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The Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) took a major step this month toward becoming the nation’s only 100-percent electric public transit fleet.

The AVTA board of directors voted to award BYD Motors (Build Your Dreams) a contract to manufacture up to 85 electric buses through 2021. The Lancaster-based manufacturer will build and deliver a variety of all-electric models including a 40-foot low floor transit bus, a 60-foot floor articulated bus, and a 45-foot commuter coach. All 85 buses are expected to have a range of more than 160 miles on a single battery charge; AVTA is also installing a wireless charging system to extend the fleet’s range to ensure the busses will be able to traverse the agency’s longest rural routes.

BYD is a global leader in developing electronic transportation and building electric busses. The AVTA expects delivery of the first 29 vehicles within the next year. Additional grant funding for another 17 buses is expected to come from the California Air Resources Board.

“I’m pleased to chair a transit agency as forward-thinking as AVTA that also has the political will to do something no other transit agency in the country has done yet—go all-electric,” said Marvin Crist, chairman of the AVTA board of directors. Christ said there are multiple benefits to an electric bus fleet, foremost among them eliminating harmful air pollutants and reducing dependence on foreign oil.

“Another benefit from the new fleet of buses is the creation of local jobs,” Crist continued. “These benefits will be seen at the local, regional, state and national levels. It’s really a win-win.”

The electric bus fleet may also result in a cost saving for the AVTA. Over the lifetime of the fleet, the transit agency forecasts it may save more than $46 million compared to an all-diesel fleet of buses. This amounts reportedly to a savings equivalent of $46,000 per bus per year. Also, by reducing dependence on foreign oil imports, the transit agency will no longer be subject to oil price volatility.

The new bus fleet will offer the advantage of noise pollution reduction, meaning that noise pollution will be reduced by a minimum of 50 percent. There will be the elimination of CO2, NOx, PM10 and PM2.5 emissions, thereby improving air quality. The electric batteries are reportedly non-toxic and maintenance free.

“BYD Coach and Bus is proud to partner with AVTA on its ground-breaking decision to completely electrify its fleet,” said Stella Li, president of BYD Motors. “With more than 6,000 electric buses deployed worldwide and 90 million miles of dependable service already accumulated, we know that our technology will help AVTA save money and improve local air quality.”