A fully electric bus, the first of its kind in Israel, on Tuesday morning began to make the rounds on Tel Aviv’s No. 5 line, which runs from the central bus station on Levinsky Street to the train station on Arlozorov.
The bright-orange bus provides a smoother, quieter ride for passengers while producing far less pollution than its gasoline-guzzling counterparts.
Michael Nagar, the CEO of the Dan Bus Company, told Channel 2 news that the company hopes that within the next five years as many as 250 of its buses — Dan has a fleet of over 1,000 — would be electric.
The model used in Tel Aviv was manufactured by the Chinese company BYD. Its batteries run for four to five hours before requiring a recharge, which is achieved by plugging the battery into a special charger supplied by BYD. One hundred kilowatts of electricity are enough to power the bus over 100 kilometers. The full recharging cycle is completed in three to six hours at Dan garages.
BYD (an acronym for “Build Your Dreams”) has become a major player in the electric bus market. Its buses are deployed in a number of cities in China, Europe, and North and South America, and US investor Warren Buffet owns 10 percent of the company. According to BYD, the accumulated mileage achieved for its electric buses by the end of July 2012 reached over 8.23 million kilometers (5.1 million miles).
The buses are being brought to Israel by BYD’s importer, Clal Motors, whose CEO, Doron Vadai, said in a statement that “BYD’s electric bus is the perfect solution for the city of Tel Aviv, reducing both emissions and noise for the benefit of the citizens of Tel Aviv. This pilot will make Dan one of the pioneers in the zero-emission public transportation era in the world.”
The upgrade to the Dan fleet comes with a price tag of NIS 400 million shekels ($112.5 million).
Over the next year, efficiency experts will closely monitor the new Tel Aviv buses in order to determine whether to extend the environmentally friendly initiative to public transportation systems nationwide.
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv has also been looking into a super-futuristic mass transport system of magnetically levitating pods to ease its public transportation woes.
Electric vehicles are by no means new to Israel, but the industry has experienced birth pangs.
The company Better Place, founded by entrepreneur Shai Agassi, raised more than $800 million for the revolutionary concept of electric car batteries that could be quickly swapped out at dedicated stations, eliminating the need for lengthy charging and greatly increasing vehicle range.
The company only attracted some 1,000-2,000 purchasers throughout all of Israel, each of whom paid NIS 160,000 ($45,000) for their electric Renault Fluence.
After Agassi was fired last fall and the company filed for bankruptcy in May, a consortium of Better Place electric car owners, led by solar energy entrepreneur Yosef Abramowitz, received court permission in July to acquire the company for some NIS 18 million ($5.1 million).
David Shamah and Gavriel Fiske contributed to this report.