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City gets $2.7 million grant for electric buses

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced the city has received a $2.7 million federal grant to pay for five new electric-powered city buses at an energy summit Tuesday.

Keller said the transition to electric buses was “long-overdue.” The new vehicles would be the first electric buses in the city, according to the city’s transit director.

The new electric buses are different from the city’s Albuquerque Rapid Transit project, which has been delayed after the city received and then returned a new electric bus fleet. The city said the buses malfunctioned.

“The battery technology challenges remain for a 60-foot bus,” Keller said. “We’ll get there. I really believe that in five years we’re going to be able to start phasing those into electric. But this project is for all our other buses. They are the vast majority of our fleet, the 40-foot workhorses of our city.”

Keller said the city could see electric buses as soon as one year from now, when the grant takes effect. He also told the crowd at the energy summit to stay tuned for a fall announcement about potential updates to city trash trucks and other city vehicles.

The news conference Keller spoke at concluded two days of an energy summit hosted by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich. The summit aimed to help leaders across New Mexico commit to local renewable energy projects.

“There’s a leadership vacuum at the federal level, especially in the White House, when it comes to pursuing opportunities in clean energy,” Heinrich told the Journal before the summit. “There are great opportunities for municipalities, counties and tribes to pursue projects that really change the grid. We’re taking the tools that are out there and putting them in the hands of local leaders.”

Workshop topics included retrofitting government buildings, improving energy use in rental housing, and creating more local solar grids and electrical vehicle charging stations in rural areas of the state.

“We’re seeing the effects climate change here in New Mexico that we sometimes take for granted,” Keller told the Journal. “Our city has ozone problems again, which are a danger for asthmatic kids and those with health problems. The city is having to do ozone health alerts that we haven’t done in decades.”

Keller said he is optimistic Albuquerque “can be a national leader on tackling climate change.”

Journal staff writer Jessica Dyer contributed to this report.


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