Rock Region Metro Gets $4.9M for Electric Buses, Charging Units

Rock Region Metro Gets $4.9M for Electric Buses, Charging Units
A Rock Region Metro bus. (Tre Baker)

Rock Region Metro has been awarded a $4.9 million Federal Transit Administration grant to buy up to five 40-foot battery electric buses and related battery charging infrastructure.

The central Arkansas transit system said the grant — its largest competitive award to date — could help it reach its goal of phasing out diesel-fueled buses entirely by the end of 2025. It said it might even do it earlier than expected — perhaps by 2023 or 2024, as additional bus purchases are made. That would make Rock Region Metro the first in the state to operate zero-emission public transit vehicles.

The buses, made by Proterra Inc. of Burlingame, California, have a range of 345 miles. Proterra, which recently merged with ArcLight Clean Transition Corp., began trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market two weeks ago.

The buses are scheduled to be in service by spring 2023. Once that happens, the Rock Region will have 31 compressed natural gas buses, up to five battery electric buses and 10 or fewer diesel buses.

Rock Region said the buses' charging infrastructure can be designed to service mass transit vehicles on one side and personal vehicles on the other.

"This is such an exciting opportunity for Metro to lead the push to put Little Rock on the map for electric vehicle charging infrastructure while making central Arkansas' public transit system even more sustainable," CEO Charles Frazier said in a news release. "We are appreciative of the FTA's focus on aiding public transit agencies with this innovative technology that will modernize our fleet and make it possible for Metro to reach its fleet conversion goal ahead of schedule."

Rock Region Metro's project was one of 49 across the country awarded a share of $182 million in funding through the 2021 FTA Low- or No-Emission Grant Program.