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Electric buses will be put to the test in Duluth

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One of the new electric buses in Duluth.
One of the new electric buses that will be operating in Duluth starting Nov. 19.
Courtesy of Duluth Transit Authority

Seven new electric buses will soon be traveling the streets of Duluth.

The Duluth Transit Authority was one of 10 transit systems in the nation to receive a federal grant to acquire the buses. They were introduced to the public on Thursday.

They're not transporting passengers just yet — there's some testing and training to be done before the buses enter service on Nov. 19.

But once they do, DTA general manager Phil Pumphrey said they'll be noticeable on the roads in the Twin Ports.

"They're very quiet. You can tell they're different from the outside by the fact they have a rear window and they have kind of a curved roof line on top from front to back," he said.

The DTA received $6.3 million from the Federal Transit Administration grant, with additional funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Pumphrey said that as part of the grant, the transit system will monitor how the electric buses perform compared to conventional diesel buses.

"They're ... about $900,000 apiece, which is much more than a conventional diesel-powered bus," he said. "However, over their life they should have about one-third the cost of a conventional diesel-powered bus — and we're going to be testing that theory."

Pumphrey said new battery technology should allow the buses to operate through Duluth's frigid winter months, and navigate the city's hilly streets. The buses won't be zero-emission — because of the low temperatures seen in Duluth, the buses have a supplemental diesel-powered heating system.

With the new buses included, Pumphrey said the DTA's fleet has 77 buses.