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County Connection, Gillig to Debut All-Electric Buses

Last Saturday (5 November 2016), County Connection executives and officials from Federal, state, and local governments have convened outside the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek to debut the transit agency’s first set of electric buses. Made locally by Gillig in Hayward, the four 29-foot, all-electric trolleybuses are the company’s first attempt in developing such buses for transit agencies like County Connection, in collaboration with BAE and Wave that provide the electric battery propulsion and charging systems for the electric buses.
The four buses, numbered 1601 through 1604, will replace County Connection’s existing replica trolleybuses (numbered 315 to 317), also built by Gillig. The older trolleybuses have been in service for over 14 years and were qualified for a replacement grant from the Federal Transit Authority. Federal law mandates that transit vehicles, including replica trolleybuses, have to be replaced after a certain amount of time in service (in the case of the trolleybuses, 12 years). The current replica trolleybuses have wooden seats that make the ride around Downtown Walnut Creek reminiscent of intracity travel of decades past. However, due to tightening emissions regulations as a result of the Federal and State governments’ recognition of carbon and diesel emissions as a major contributor to climate change and global warming, agencies like County Connection are seeking ways to find replacement vehicles that use alternative sources of energy, including hybrid diesel-electric, hydrogen, and all-electric.
This also marks Gillig’s first foray into the all-electric vehicle market, which is growing rapidly thanks to the popularity of other companies like BYD from China and Tesla from Fremont that develop all-electric vehicles for the mass market and the transportation industry. The bus maker has partnered with BAE and integrated the engine company’s HybriDrive propulsion system that eliminates the need for a traditional diesel or a hybrid diesel-electric engine mechanism and instead replace them with electric batteries that can keep the buses running for up to 85 miles per charge. However, since these buses operate on a short, but popular loop around Walnut Creek (called the Downtown Circulator, Line 4), BAE has collaborated with Wave Technologies to install an inductive charging station at Walnut Creek BART so that those vehicles can charge while on layover at the BART station (for up to 9 minutes), allowing the vehicles to run all-day without the need of returning to Martinez for recharging. 
Fortunately for County Connection and Gillig, this project was well worth the six years’ collaboration between the two institutions, along with intergovernmental support from the local, state, and federal levels, with a grant worth $1.1 million from the Federal Transit Authority (with local matching) to develop and procure the four all-electric buses. In addition, these buses will be the first all-electric buses operated by a transit agency in the San Francisco Bay Area (although this is disputed as Stanford University has been operating over 25 units of BYD buses, in 30- and 40-foot formats, since 2012). This program was also a beneficiary of the Prototype Support Waiver by the FTA since this will be a first-of-its-kind vehicle operating in the United States, in which it is built and produced in Hayward, CA and will be covered by the law in case any of these vehicles run into issues during its run. And the City of Walnut Creek will continue operating County Connection Line 4 for free using those four new all-electric buses (with a subsidy of over $4 million) since it is a highly-visible route that carries over 10,000 passengers per month, serving BART, Broadway Plaza, and many downtown attractions.
Some of the officials and dignitaries present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony include:

  • Rick Ramacier, General Manager, County Connection
  • Anne Muzzini, Director of Planning and Marketing, County Connection
  • Laura Hoffmeister, Mayor of Concord (also Member of County Connection Board of Directors)
  • Amy Worth, Mayor of Orinda (also a Commissioner for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission)
  • Bob SImmons, City Council Member, Walnut Creek (also a major supporter of the project)
  • Loella Haskew, City Council Member, Walnut Creek
  • Randell Iwasaki, Executive Director, Contra Costa Transportation Authority
  • Peter Engel, Director of Programs, Contra Costa Transportation Authority 
  • Candice Anderson, Supervisor, Contra Costa County
  • Gail Murray, BART Board of Directors (District 1)
  • Congressman Mike Thomson
  • Yesh Premkumar, Program Manager, Advanced Application Programs, HybriDrive Solutions, BAE Systems
  • Carol Gorenflo, Marketing and Media Relations, HybriDrive Solutions, BAE Systems
  • Mark Weideman, Principal, Weideman Group (who worked alongside Wave Technologies)
  • Susan Noack, Mayor of Pleasant Hill
  • Derek Maunus, President, Gillig Corporation
Technical details for the Gillig All-Electric Buses:

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Maximum Charge
100 kilowatts
Electric Consumption
2.5 kw/mile
Recharging Mechanisms
  • Combo two-plug (with a 90 kw charger) – can fully charge a bus in around 2 hours
  • Inductive charging (provided by Wave Technologies) – can charge up to 70% of power when bus is on layover for up to 9 minutes
BAE HybriDrive System (lasts for 12 years)
Maximum Range
Up to 85 miles (without recharge)
Diesel savings
9,000 gallons
Carbon emissions reduction
300 tons
Seating capacity
25 (with 2 handicapped spaces)
Maximum capacity
32 (with standees)

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