Don’t tell anyone because it’s kind of a secret but on Thursday, Jan. 31 Greensboro will become the first city in North Carolina to incorporate electric buses into its public transportation fleet.

It’s a soft opening. The Greensboro Transportation Authority is going to simply put the 10 new electric buses out on the streets without any ribbon cuttings, marching bands or long (boring) speeches by politicians.

However, on Thursday, Feb. 21 the city will officially launch its electric bus program and Gov. Roy Cooper is reportedly coming to assist in the celebration which may or may not include marching bands, but will definitely include speeches by politicians.

Not only are electric buses quiet and emit no exhaust but they are also far less expensive to operate. According to Greensboro Department of Transportation Director Adam Fischer the city will save about $30,000 a year per bus on fuel and operating costs.  The average life expectancy of the city bus is 12 years, so GTA is expecting to save about $360,000 per bus.  With just 10 electric buses in the fleet by the end of February that will be a savings of about $3.6 million over the life of the buses.

And the city isn’t stopping at just 10.  By the end of 2019, GTA expects to have six more electric buses out on the streets and the plan according to Fischer is to eventually replace the entire fleet of 53 diesel buses with electric buses.  When you look at saving $30,000 a year times 53 buses, you start talking some real money.

Fischer said that the savings, along with the obvious fuel reduction in fuel costs, are mainly in maintenance. Electric buses have far fewer moving parts.  There is no oil to change, no coolant, hoses or radiators.  It’s a more efficient much simpler motor than a diesel engine.

The batteries will be recharged overnight but there is also a quick recharging station at The Depot which will recharge the batteries in as little as eight minutes.  The buses are also equipped with regenerative braking which means each time the driver applies the brakes that energy is used to recharge the batteries. It’s a pretty neat trick.

So in the coming weeks if you pull up behind a bus with no tail pipe emitting clouds of smoke and you don’t hear it when it pulls off, you have seen one of the new electric buses in action.