Four new 100% electric community shuttle buses have hit the road in the beautiful Silicon Valley city of Mountain View, California. The four electric shuttles are free to the public, thanks to Google, and are equipped with seating for 16 passengers, a wheelchair lift, space for two wheelchairs, Wi-Fi connectivity, and bicycle racks on the outside of the shuttle. This sounds more tempting to me than a Tesla.
The free Mountain View Community Shuttle service, funded by Google, is designed to move residents and visitors through the city between neighborhoods, shopping centers, medical complexes, city facilities, and recreation areas. These EVs can travel up to 100 miles on a single charge, and offer passengers quiet, comfortable rides. Officials are hoping the new free public transit service will reduce drive-alone traffic, as well as help residents get around town in a convenient loop route.
With a wide variety of interesting places to visit in Mountain View, these new electric shuttles are just one more reason to kick myself for moving away from the San Francisco Bay Area. In Mountain View’s Castro Street district alone, there is a weekly farmers’ market, and on special Thursdays, the district transforms into an exciting street fair with lots of arts and crafts vendors, and classic car owners showing off. All the other days of the week are just as charming, too, strolling the multi-cultural blocks of ethnic restaurants and local businesses. And if you get tired of strolling, just hop the EV Shuttle. For free.
“We Don’t Need to Design New Vehicles from the Ground Up”
“With these four buses, thousands of residents will get to experience firsthand what an electric bus can offer,” said Motiv CEO Jim Castelaz. “These buses demonstrate we don’t need to design new vehicles from the ground up to break their reliance on fossil fuel and offer zero-emission vehicle options.”
Motiv Power Systems, based in Foster City, California, began designing and building its modular, plug and play electric Powertrain Control System (ePCS) in 2009. Motiv states that its ePCS is the only product suite in the industry that electrifies a truck or bus chassis as a ship-though option. Using a variety of commercially available battery packs and motors, this innovative process allows for minimal changes between the fossil fuel and electric versions of the final truck or bus.
The Motiv ePCS can be used to create all-electric versions of vehicles such as box trucks, flat-take-bed trucks, refrigerated trucks, utility/service trucks, shuttle buses, school buses, delivery vehicles, and even garbage trucks. In 2014, Motiv was the first electric truck and bus company in the US to release a production model all-electric school bus and the first in North America to release an all-electric garbage truck.
The four new white and blue Mountain View Community Shuttles feature a Ford E450 chassis and an Ameritrans 285 shuttle bus body. In the ship-through modification, the Motiv ePCS, battery packs, and the motor are installed in the shuttle, effectively replacing the engine and transmission of the new incomplete chassis. This process is becoming quite common in the truck and bus industry, and is actually very similar to a compressed natural gas ship-through modification.
Mountain View, Home of Google’s Famous Googleplex HQ
One of the major cities in California’s Silicon Valley, Mountain View is home to many notable IT companies, including Symantec, Microsoft, Nokia, and of course, Google. The famous Googleplex became the new Mountain View headquarters for Google in 2004. Now it is home base for more than 70 offices in over 40 countries around the world.
Google spokesperson Meghan Casserly is pleased with the new two-year pilot project. “We’re happy to be working with Motiv and the City of Mountain View on the new electric community shuttles,” she said. “We hope the shuttle system makes getting around a little easier–and greener–for all of our neighbors.”
It’s really too sad that we can’t all be Google’s lucky neighbors. In addition to providing amazing, free, Wi-Fi, zero-emission community shuttle service, Google also provides free Wi-Fi internet all over most of Mountain View. Not to mention all those amazing Google geeks and geekettes adorning the neighborhood…
California’s Trend-Setting State and Private Innovators
The Mountain View Community Shuttle project is a beautiful hybrid of state and private players. The costs of the shuttle service’s two-year pilot program are supported by Google. However, the actual electrification of the shuttles was made possible through a project administered by CALSTART with funding from the California Energy Commission (CEC).
“This is an excellent example of how state and private funds can be used to help clean the air, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and support the growth of a California company,” said CALSTART CEO and President John Boesel.
CEC grants have enabled the bus and service dealer, ABC Companies, to purchase the batteries and the electric powertrains. In turn, ABC Companies provided Google with the new 100 percent electric, zero-emission shuttles for the same cost as fossil-fueled shuttles.
During the pilot program, Motiv will collect data and usage patterns. Its goal is to prove that electric shuttle buses are a viable alternative to dirtier, diesel-fueled traditional shuttles. The Motiv team states that it expects to see a significant reduction in the time required to produce these vehicles. It also anticipates a decrease in the total cost of ownership by 8% for initial production vehicles, and by over 30% for production vehicles.
Mountain View Shuttles are “the Perfect Showcase”
“We’ve been watching the development of electric buses over the past few years,” said Jon Savitz, Senior Vice President, Business Development of ABC Companies. “Google’s commitment to clean, efficient transportation and their company-wide culture of promoting new technologies gave ABC’s Ameritrans subsidiary an opportunity to apply Motiv’s fully electric drive system to their shuttle vehicles.”
ABC Senior Vice President Savitz continued, “The Mountain View Community shuttles are the perfect showcase to apply this technology to our buses and bring cleaner public transportation to the residents and visitors of the city.”
For more information on shuttle routes, schedules, operations and, in the near future, a ride tracker to show you lucky ducks where the shuttles are on their route, visit MVCommunityShuttle.com or call the hotline at (855) 730-RIDE (7433). And don’t forget to take a picture of the giant Google Android statue at its new location in the Googleplex at 1981 Landings Drive ( 37.4184135°N 122.0879531°W). …Yes, I agree it’s tacky, but it’s an icon… anyway, everyone does it, and it will look awesome with you in the picture. ;^)
Top & bottom images: New Google-funded 100% electric shuttle buses in Mountain View, CA, via PRNewswire; Google Android lawn statue, by Kenneth Lu, Flickr.