MISSOULA – The Associated Students of the University of Montana will launch its first zero-emission vehicles on Friday, Sept. 30, following a decision to “go electric” with its fleet.
The student-led transit agency will host an official ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. on the UM Oval, becoming the first campus in America to bring fast-charging electric buses to a university fleet.
Along with UM President Royce Engstrom, ASUM will host a slate of local and national dignitaries at the ceremony, including Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Proterra CEO Ryan Popple.
“After years of planning and anticipation, we’re proud to unveil our first electric bus to the campus community,” said Jordan Hess, director of the ASUM Office of Transportation. “The UDASH service and this electric bus project are testaments to the advocacy, involvement and entrepreneurial spirit of our student body. In the long run, these vehicles will reduce our carbon footprint while delivering substantial cost savings to the University.”
Vehicle manufacturer Proterra offers fast-charging electric vehicles, and ASUM is its first university client. ASUM Transportation ordered two 40-foot Catalyst fast-charge buses and a charging station for its campus routes in February following years of planning. The first of those vehicles arrives in Missoula this week, and Homecoming parade watchers will get to see the new vehicle with its lively graphic design and near-silent operation.
The purchase was supported with Diesel Emissions Reduction Act funding from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.
“We are pleased to partner with ASUM in providing supplemental funding on this project,” said Kyla Maki with the DEQ Energy Office. “Electric buses are a viable transportation option that will help meet goals we share with UM to reduce emissions, save money and improve public health and the environment.”
According to DEQ, the Proterra buses will immediately improve local air quality when they enter service, reducing emissions by 1,392 tons during their 12-year lifespan. The DEQ also estimates that nearly 123,500 gallons of diesel fuel will not be burned as a result of the transition to the new technology.
“As stewards of everything ‘under the big sky,’ we all have a responsibility to protect our planet and our communities from the heavy impact of diesel pollution,” said Ryan Popple, president and CEO of Proterra. “We salute the University of Montana as the first college in the nation to adopt Proterra zero-emission buses. We hope this example inspires other academic institutions to follow suit.
Founded in 1999 by a student referendum, ASUM Transportation has seen its ridership grow to nearly 15,000 people per week. Last year alone it provided more than 400,000 zero-fare rides to students, staff, faculty and visitors.
For more information about ASUM Transportation visit http://udash.org.