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Four electric buses added to southern Maine fleets

The new buses are expected to eliminate as much as 500 tons of carbon emissions in one year of use.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland and Biddeford regions took a first step toward making their city bus fleets all-electric on Monday.

After one month of trial runs, two brand new Proterra electric buses were officially put in service for the Greater Portland Metro and another two for the Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Transit. 

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, joined a ceremony Monday morning and spoke at length about humans' role in Earth's changing climate and rising seas. He said coastal communities, like the ones the buses will serve, are at the front lines of the issue and that Monday was a big day for progress.

"We wish we could do all the buses at once, but this is a major contribution, what we're seeing today," he said. "And the fact that we've now done it means we now know how to do it, and we know how to do it the next time."

The four vehicles are expected to offset 500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in one year of use. The new buses in Portland will replace two of the 44 diesel and natural gas vehicles currently on the city's roads. 

Metro Executive Director Greg Jordan said the goal is to slowly transform the fleet to all-electric over 15 to 20 years.

"If you’re a pedestrian, a bicyclist, someone having dinner at a café in the city, when this bus goes by, you’re probably not gonna hear it, and you’re not gonna smell it," he said during an interview after the ceremony. "Those are some of the practical things that are good about electric vehicles."

Jordan said the biggest challenge for the new electric buses would come during the winter months when temperatures drop, and his team will measure the expected decline in how long each charge lasts.

The move not only plays to the published climate action plan from Gov. Janet Mills, but it's also part of a joint plan by Portland and South Portland to reduce "community-wide" greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and eliminate emissions in municipal operations by 2040.

"With 54 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions coming from the transportation sector, real progress on climate in our lifetimes will come from increasing the number of people getting around by walking, biking, and using public transit," Snyder said during the ceremony.

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