Image information: Cutting the ribbon on Knoxville’s first all-electric KAT buses are from left, Brian Blackmon, Director of Sustainability for the City of Knoxville, Sarah Fansler, Director of Community Outreach for U.S. Representative Tim Burchett, Knoxville City Councilmember Tommy Smith, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, Isaac Thorne, Director of Transit for the City of Knoxville, and Gabriel Bolas, President and CEO of Knoxville Utilities Board.
Mayor Kincannon joined Knoxville Area Transit (KAT), elected officials, and others today in Caswell Park to introduce and celebrate the first all-electric buses to join the KAT fleet. This order of the first 12 vehicles represents a step toward Knoxville’s clean and resilient future – and progress toward the City’s goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050. Five of the 12 have arrived to-date, the rest are due before the end of the year. An additional 6 vehicles are expected to arrive next year, bringing the total to 18. When the last electric bus arrives, this all-electric group will represent 26% of the total fleet, along with another 41% being hybrid-electrics.
“Today marks a dramatic milestone for Knoxville – this is a major step on our path toward a more clean and resilient future for our children and grandchildren,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said. “These high-efficiency electric buses are an investment in clean air, in healthy neighborhoods, and mobility for our residents.”
A key partner in the electric bus program was Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB). KUB worked with KAT at the outset to ensure that KAT would have enough power to charge as many as twenty-five all-electric buses in coming years. The charging stations for the first twelve buses are currently being installed.
“This is an exciting day for Knoxville, and KUB is proud to be part of it,” said Gabriel Bolas, KUB President and CEO. “KUB supports electric vehicles in our community, and we’re proud to be a partner with the City of Knoxville in building a more sustainable future.”
After today’s inaugural ride with members of City Council and other attendees, KAT will begin testing the buses on various routes, training operators in the optimal operating techniques, and preparing the vehicles to begin operating in regular service, currently scheduled for January.
For Isaac Thorne, the City’s Director of Transit, this electric vehicle program is an added benefit to an already available climate solution: transit itself. “Transportation is the heaviest contributor to climate change in the US; switching some trips to transit can change that, and electric transit holds the key to even greater benefits. By drawing new people to consider transit, reducing reliance on cars, opening up opportunities, and providing sustainable mobility choices, transit can make cities more livable, make the air cleaner, and help meet our challenging but achievable climate goals.”
It is expected that the first two bus routes that will see the electric buses in regular service are Routes 17 – Sutherland and 31 – Magnolia Avenue, although, Thorne says, the results of on-street trials over the next few months could change those plans.