MARTA unveiled a new electric bus on March 17 that will run on routes in Fulton and DeKalb counties starting March 20.

The electric bus, which was revealed at the agency’s headquarters in Buckhead, isn’t a permanent part of MARTA’s fleet. The transit organization owns diesel, hybrid and compressed natural gas buses, but hasn’t added a completely electric bus.

The electric bus that will be tested on MARTA routes in Fulton and DeKalb counties. (MARTA)

That could possibly change after this 30-day pilot program. MARTA has done pilot programs with electric buses before and did not add them to its fleet afterwards. But MARTA is still exploring the idea, said spokesperson Erik Burton.

“MARTA is definitely pursuing opportunities to upgrade and integrate electric buses into our existing fleet,” Burton said. “This pilot program is a part of our process in identifying what works best for MARTA.”

Keith Parker, MARTA’s general manager, said in a press release the agency is considering options to reduce the carbon footprint of the public transportation service.

MARTA hasn’t yet finalized the routes, Burton said, but the bus will be running throughout Fulton and DeKalb counties on routes that will vary during the pilot program. The routes have to be outfitted with charging stations that will recharge the bus in about 10 minutes. The buses can travel for about three hours on one charge.

The bus is on loan from Proterra, an electric bus manufacturer, for about 30 days at no cost to MARTA “to showcase the benefits that a zero-emissions, battery-electric bus can bring to the region’s communities,” Proterra spokesperson Steven Brewster said.

Buying the Catalyst, the type of bus on loan, would cost about $750,000, Brewster said. The cost is approximately 30 percent more than buying a diesel bus, but the company claims not having to buy fuel and less frequent maintenance makes up the cost and saves owners an average of $448,000 over the lifetime of the vehicle.

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