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Quiet, clean and advanced: KAT adds electric buses to its fleet

After investing in 18 electric buses, leaders with Knoxville Area Transit said around 26% of their fleet now runs on electric power.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It's not often that a bus sneaks up on riders. But after Knoxville Area Transit invested in a total of 18 electric buses, it's becoming likelier.

"They're quiet, they're clean and they have lots of great features for passengers like USB chargers," said Belinda Woodiel-Brill, the director of planning and public information at KAT. "It's just a really fun technology and we've just been so happy with the public response to it."

Last year, KAT started introducing electric buses to its routes. They currently have 12 electric buses driving throughout the Knoxville area and plan to add another six by the end of the year. The switch can help reduce carbon emissions from the city.

Transportation is one of the largest contributors to harmful emissions in the atmosphere. With its new electric buses, KAT hopes to reduce how much greenhouse gases its fleet produces.

"When we develop ways to reduce that, that helps solve our climate challenge," said Woodiel-Brill.

All-electric vehicles emit around 55% less greenhouse gas emissions than their diesel counterparts, and around 35% less than the hybrid-diesel buses that KAT also has on the road. With fewer emissions also comes lower bills in the long term.

KAT does not need to buy fuel for the buses or change their oil. There are also fewer maintenance costs associated with all-electric buses, helping reduce how much they spend over time.

“A lot of those maintenance costs that come along with a big diesel engine won’t be a factor with our electric fleet," said Woodiel-Brill. “It’s definitely a learning experience, but we’re getting great data and we’re learning a lot of stuff, and we’re hoping this will just be a smashing success.”

The buses can recharge while parked overnight, and while batteries may not perform as consistently as engines, KAT expects them to handle the demands of their routes. Temperature differences can marginally impact how much electricity the bus goes through, as well as how much the bus uses features like heating or cooling.

Electric buses are part of Knoxville's efforts to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, according to a release from officials. People in the city can also use an app to find buses and routes that KAT operates.

It's called Transit and is used by counties and cities across the U.S. It lets users see bus locations in real-time, as well as see route maps and departure times.

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