Mountain Line will move closer to its carbon-reduction goals next week when it introduces two more electric buses to the road.

The addition, along with four more electric buses in delivery, will bring Mountain Line’s fixed-route fleet to over 40% electric by the end of the year.

“We’ve learned a lot in the last two years about charging infrastructure, battery capacity in cold weather, and the mechanics of maintaining an electric fleet,” said Mountain Line Projects and Planning Manager Vince Caristo. “The most important thing we learned, though, is that we have a viable way forward to transition our entire fleet to zero-emissions technology in the coming years.”

Mountain Line introduced its first electric buses in the summer of 2019 and showcased them widely across the city.

Following the successful launch of the first six electric buses, the Missoula Urban Transportation District, which governs Mountain Line, committed to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035.

“Despite improvements over the past decade, air quality remains a serious issue in Missoula, especially during winter inversions and summer wildfire season,” said Amy Cilimburg, a transit district board member. “We’re committed to moving Missoula forward sustainably to improve public health, keep our air clean and lower our carbon footprint to benefit all Missoulians.”

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality awarded Mountain Line a $1 million grant in December 2019 to purchase the two electric buses entering service next week.

The transition away from tail-pipe emissions is part of a larger plan to protect air quality in the Missoula Valley.

“DEQ is proud to partner with Mountain Line to cut emissions and drive energy innovation with these new electric buses,” said Sonja Nowakowski with DEQ. “By reducing nitrogen oxide emissions, projects like this create healthier air in Montana communities.”

Mountain Line’s electric buses consume less energy per mile than buses using gasoline, diesel and natural gas engines. Running electric buses rather than diesel buses reduces the energy equivalent of 58 years worth of gas for the average car drive annually, Caristo said.  

Replacing Mountain Line's fleet of diesel buses will also reduce the agency's annual greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 252 tons and prevent the release of 7.6 pounds of particulate matter from entering the Missoula airshed annually.

“To quantify these positive benefits another way, this reduction in emissions and particulate matter results in a social cost saving of $13,000 each year,” said Caristo. “Our transition to an electric fleet benefits all Missoulians by protecting our air quality for a healthier community.” 

This June, the Federal Transit Administration Low or No Emissions Vehicle Program awarded Mountain Line a $3.6 million grant to purchase additional electric buses with support from both Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester.

This grant will allow Mountain Line to purchase four more electric buses and charging infrastructure, which will bring Mountain Line’s fleet to 57% electric when they arrive in 2023.