Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

Chatham Area Transit plans to add four new electric buses to it fleet, bringing its total to 10 fully electric buses or 15% of its public transportation fleet.

A $6.8 million award, including a $5.4 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, will pay for the new buses plus additional charging infrastructure and workforce development.

Local officials celebrated the grant in front of an electric bus at CAT headquarters last week.

“This project will help CAT reduce maintenance costs, provide better service to our customers, reduce our carbon footprint and further support workforce development,” said CAT Board Chairman Deidrick Cody.

CAT put its first six electric buses in service in April after beginning the process of evaluating them in 2017. This process is already a lot quicker.

“Little do we know this would turn around so fast. It’s just this past May we applied for this grant. And lo and behold, here it is.” said Chatham County Commission Chairman Chester Ellis. “And this is going to help us to improve our carbon footprint, it’s is going to help us with our fight against climate change, and ocean rise.”

Riders like the buses, CAT Executive Director Faye DiMassimo said. It helps that the vehicles are new, of course. They are also fully equipped with charging ports for cell phones. Some riders, though, have made it a point to compliment CAT on what electric buses do for the community.

“For those that are tuning in and paying attention to climate change, and our carbon footprint and those matters of the environment, we’re getting a lot of positive feedback from those folks not only for the experience of it, but for the actual doing,” DiMassimo said.

Given the several months it will take to get the grant money in hand and then accounting for supply chain issues, the new buses which aren’t expected to be on the streets for about 24 months.

Electric transportation is a key measure in the 100% Savannah Initiative, a program whose goals include getting all of the energy used in Savannah from safe, clean and renewable sources by 2035.

“This fits in very well to our 100% Savannah Initiative, which we are going hard and strong for, which includes electric vehicle infrastructure,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said.

The Tide brings news and observations from The Current’s staff.