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Pinellas Coast Transit Authority announces roll-out of 62 new GILLIG Battery Electric Buses

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The future of public transit has arrived in Pinellas County.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, PSTA, showed off its brand new zero-emission electric buses on Wednesday, paid for with the settlement money from a Volkswagen emissions scandal.

With the help of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, PSTA managed to secure $18 million from a large, multi-billion-dollar settlement that Volkswagen has been paying the government after the carmaker was caught cheating on emissions testing for its cars.

"Volkswagen lied and pumped extra pollution into Florida’s air, so they had to pay up. We went after a share of that money to reduce future pollution and continue PSTA’s leadership in sustainability," said PSTA CEO Brad Miller.

PSTA debuted 62 new zero-emission buses that will replace the current diesel fleet. Each has a range of up to 250 miles on a single charge.The new vehicles will allow PSTA to "retire" dozens of diesel-fueled buses soon, which will certainly benefit local air quality.

They were made available thanks to a substantial settlement from Volkswagen. In 2016, as part of a plea deal, the company agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties for cheating on its emissions testing.

Florida received $156 million of those funds, with $18 million going to PSTA.

"PSTA is a national leader in sustainability, and this shows you why," Miller said. "It is good for our planet and good for our wallets."

According to PSTA spokesperson Stephanie Rank, each new electric bus cuts carbon emissions by 135 tons annually.

"With each bus, electric bus that we have, we save about $20,000 for each electric bus," Rank said. "We are doing our due diligence to help future generations and reduce our carbon emissions in the future."

PSTA already has about 80 hybrid buses and six fully electric buses in their fleet, but these new zero-emission models were purchased from a different manufacturer, GILLIG, and will feature improvements like double the battery power, and a smoother more comfortable ride for passengers thanks to some interior differences.

Experts say Florida is the second-leading market for electric vehicles behind California, so the infrastructure needs to keep up with the growing demand.

The challenges with that include cost, time, and putting more electrical charging stations at bus stations, or places like theme parks, restaurants and hotels.

PSTA currently has seven charging stations on campus for their buses and plan on adding more around the county.

They say these newer buses can be fully charged in two to three hours.

PSTA has pledged to go all-electric by 2050. All 62 of the newly unveiled busses hold be operational within about 18 months, with 14 of them hitting the road by the end of the year.


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