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Knoxville leaders introduce new electric KAT buses

City leaders including Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon took the first ride in one on Thursday starting at Caswell Park.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — The City of Knoxville officially has a fleet of all-electric buses.

City leaders including Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon took the first ride in one on Thursday starting at Caswell Park.

According to a release, five of the 12 buses have arrived, and the rest are due before the end of the year. Six more vehicles are expected to arrive in 2022, bringing the total to 18.  

When the last electric bus arrives, this all-electric group will represent 26% of the total fleet, along with another 41% being hybrid-electrics, according to the city's release.

Officials said this represents progress toward the city’s goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050.  

“Today marks a dramatic milestone for Knoxville – this is a major step on our path toward a more clean and resilient future for our children and grandchildren,” Kincannon said. “These high-efficiency electric buses are an investment in clean air, in healthy neighborhoods, and mobility for our residents.” 

Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) worked with KAT to ensure it would have enough power to charge as many as 25 all-electric buses, according to a release. The charging stations for the first 12 buses are currently being installed. 

"This is an exciting day for Knoxville, and KUB is proud to be part of it," said  KUB President and CEO Gabriel Bolas. "KUB supports electric vehicles in our community, and we’re proud to be a partner with the City of Knoxville in building a more sustainable future." 

Officials said KAT will begin testing the buses on various routes, training operators in the optimal operating techniques and preparing the vehicles to begin operating in regular service, currently scheduled for January.

The first two bus routes expected to see the electric buses in regular service are Routes 17 – Sutherland and Route 31 – Magnolia Avenue, according to a release. 

Isaac Thorne, the city’s director of transit, said the results of on-street trials over the next few months could change those plans.  

The city voted back in April 2018 to bring in the first five fully electric buses, and Knoxville Area Transit (KAT) was given the green light to buy four new, fully electric buses in December 2019. 

At the time, officials said that they hoped to eventually replace the current fleet of hybrid models and reduce Knoxville's emissions.

KAT announced the first of its electric buses was officially up and running on Thursday, May 13, 2021. The fleet had to go through extensive tests before arriving in the Scruffy City.

Knoxville received a $4.8 million federal grant in July 2021 for electronic buses. KAT said it will have 12 electric buses by January 2022.