SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego Metropolitan System began construction Thursday on an $8.5 million overhead electric bus charging system capable of charging 24 battery-electric buses at a time.

“Today, we are taking a leap forward for environmental justice, sustainability and clean air,” said Nathan Fletcher, MTS board chair and chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. “In order to stay on the forefront of technology, MTS looked at solutions to maximize our land use, and the overhead charging system not only is the most innovative technology yet, it provides the infrastructure necessary to keep buses in service and yard operations running effectively.

“It also brings us closer to achieving regional climate goals and a zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040,” he said.

The overhead gantry charging system is expandable to add more charging capacity as MTS transitions its fleet to all-electric over the coming years. MTS will be installing the Schunk SLS 301 series Depot Charging Pantograph, which offers a quicker and safer hands-free electric vehicle charge.

“Critical to the successful implementation of a zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040 is the charging infrastructure necessary to support it,” said Gretchen Newsom, political director for IBEW 569, which represents more than 3,500 local electrical workers. “Even more critical is a skilled workforce to build it. That’s what IBEW 569 provides.

“We look forward to working with MTS as it continues to expand its electric footprint at the other bus divisions in the coming years,” she said.

According to MTS, buses can be docked in the depot in seconds and fully charged in just a few hours.

Construction is expected to be completed by early 2023, in time for the new Iris Rapid route, which will consist of 60-foot electric buses serving a busy South Bay corridor between Imperial Beach and Otay Mesa. MTS has plans to build similar overhead gantry charging systems at its other bus facilities by 2028.

“Through our “Power Your Drive for Fleets” program, SDG&E is proud to support organizations like MTS as they transform their fleets to zero- emissions vehicles, and in the process, help create cleaner air and healthier communities, said SDG&E Vice President of Energy Innovation Miguel Romero. “Public-private collaboration to accelerate the transition to clean vehicles of all types — from passenger car and buses to trucks and forklifts — is absolutely necessary to meeting our region’s climate goals.”

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