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Wichita to operate the first electric buses in Kansas

Wichita will add the state's first electric buses to its public transit fleet in hopes of saving hundreds of thousands of dollars and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

The first bus is expected to hit the road this month, while an additional 10 should come into service next year, KCUR reported . The city's transit director, Mike Tann, won a $2 million federal grant that allowed the city to purchase four new electric buses from manufacturer ProTerra.

Tann also bought seven smaller electric buses from a company called Custom Coach Works, and those vehicles will replace aging buses that look like old trolleys and run downtown Wichita routes.

"The ultimate goal is to get people to use the (bus) system because they want to," Tann said. "And electrifying it seems to get people thinking about it and it also gets us off the fossil fuels too."

Transportation emissions make up the largest source of planet-warming greenhouse gases in the United States.

Wichita Transit has also remodeled its bus barn and placed charges for 14 buses. Transit workers will plug in buses to charge overnight, which should prepare buses to run for about 150 miles (240 kilometers) by morning. The agency estimates each electric bus will run for 12 years and save the city $462,000 in that time compared to its diesel counterpart.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Agency serves seven counties in Missouri and Kansas. Although it hasn't been able to win federal grants to purchase electric buses, it decided to buy two.

"We're not going to jump into the deep end with all of the fleet," KCATA CEO Robbie Makinen said. "But we are going to be stepping into that process and as the technology gets better— see where we're at."

In Wichita, Tann estimates every diesel bus in the fleet will be replaced by an electric- or hydrogen-powered bus as early as 2027.

"Our plan to never buy another diesel-powered bus," Tann said.

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