In June of last year, two electric buses joined the Municipal Transit Utility fleet to help get the La Crosse community around the city.
Last night, the La Crosse Common Council approved additional funds for the project so the transit department could purchase two charging stations and the necessary infrastructure upgrades.
In 2019, the council first approved the purchase of the vehicles and charging stations with $1,250,000 from a federal grant and $312,500 from city funds.
However, due to increased costs, responsible planning for future growth of the electrical fleet and an upgrade to the original charger size, the new project cost is $1,573,000, the resolution stated.
On Thursday night, the council approved using an additional $10,500 from the Capital Improvement Project budget, bringing the total city funding to $323,000 for the project. The funds will come from the monies allocated for new transit capital equipment.The resolution was first approved at the Finance and Personnel Committee meeting Feb. 2. At that meeting, MTU director Adam Lorentz said that the technology for electric vehicle charging has improved since the initial 2019 resolution. The new chargers are 125 watts instead of 65 watts, which will charge the buses faster.
Due to delays in manufacturing and waiting on improved technology for the charges, Lorentz said the department used temporary chargers to get the buses in service last summer.
Lorentz also said that when updating the infrastructure to install the electric chargers, the team added a third conduit for another charger in the future. He said it is very costly to make those infrastructure upgrades, so preparing for more chargers now will save time and money in the future.
“If we were to add buses in the future — which is our plan — we’d have to go back and redo the process,” Lorentz said.
Additionally, the city is using a battery leasing program for the buses. Every six years, the bus batteries will be replaced and recycled.
“Anybody who knows technology knows that batteries continually get better and better,” Lorentz said. “Basically, we’re going to have a new bus in six years with the cost that we’re already paying.”
The cost of each bus is $649,066, each charging station is priced at $68,050 and the electrical infrastructure updates cost $138,769.