With the addition of two new electric vehicles this summer, the Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) now operates the largest electric bus fleet in North America. The AVTA, a client of CalChoice associate member Lancaster Choice Energy, delivers bus service to the 450,000 residents of Palmdale, Lancaster and unincorporated Los Angeles County with higher reliability, lower costs and fewer environmental impacts than the majority of bus fleets in the nation.
“For every electric bus we build, the more our people work and the cleaner our air becomes,” said Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris. “The AVTA board –including our own Vice Mayor Marvin Crist–is taking us one step closer to achieving our city’s goal of becoming the nation’s first net-zero city.”
Two years into the conversion process, 38 of the AVTA’s 95 buses are currently electric. After one million miles of electric transit, the Authority has offset 252,000 gallons of diesel, saving taxpayers $532,000 and reducing the region’s carbon footprint by 1.3 million tons annually.
Maintenance costs have dropped from $1.50 per mile on diesel vehicles to $0.55 per mile on electric buses since the AVTA no longer maintain diesel engines. With fewer maintenance needs, the AVTA will continue to offer service at a level of reliability far above the national average. Bus companies across the country are able to make, on average, 77 percent of their fleets available every day. In April, with electric buses composing almost half the fleet, the AVTA had an average availability of 92 percent.
With partial electrification of the fleet, fuel costs have dropped as well. The AVTA estimates that a future all-electric fleet will require $159,000 in fuel costs per month, a significant drop from the fuel cost of $585,000 incurred monthly for an all-diesel fleet.
Looking ahead, AVTA Executive Director and CEO Macy Neshati has set a target electric fleet size of 85 buses. The AVTA expects to save $5.1 million every year on fuel and maintenance once the full transition to electric buses is complete, which amounts to more than 17 percent of the Authority’s annual budget of $29 million.
“Stated a different way, we will have saved $61 million dollars over the lifecycle of the fleet — that’s enough money to replace that fleet entirely out of our savings when the lifecycle is over in 12 years,” Neshati noted at a Lancaster city council meeting in June. “There’s not another fleet in the nation or in the world that can make that claim.”
The AVTA’s electric conversion marks the latest benchmark in environmental progress for Northern Los Angeles County’s desert communities, which have received national distinctions for their progress on environmental issues. Lancaster, one of the cities where the AVTA operates, received a Green Power Leadership Award from the Environmental Protection Agency this fall for its work to become the nation’s first net-zero city. Mayor Rex Parris also received the agency’s 2019 Green Power Leader of the Year award. The AVTA’s electric fleet will be a crucial element of sustainability plans for Lancaster and Palmdale.
“The returns we’ve already received from our investment in an electric fleet are remarkable,” said Neshati. “Thanks to Mayor Parris’s vision, it is an exciting time to be at the helm of an organization that’s leading the national push towards transit electrification.”