Athens Public Transit recently unveiled its new electric bus to a charged crowd at the Athens Community Center Wednesday morning.
The event attracted dozens, offering an electric-themed playlist of live music, a synchronized dance and free rides on the new bus around the community center’s parking lot.
The new bus project was a long-time coming, however.
“This was a project actually started way back in June of 2019, so it took a long time to come to fruition,” said Carolyn Conley, transportation director with Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, also known as HAPCAP.
The presence of electric vehicles has increased over the past few years, becoming more common in urban areas. The justification for funds was due to the lack of data on how the buses would perform in rural settings, Conley said.
“Rural Action was able to get a grant with the Department of Energy to see how technologies such as electric buses would do in a rural setting,” said Conley. “We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get some grant money to purchase the bus.”
The new bus will do more than just transport people, it will also serve as a study of how it performs on curvy roads, brick roads and hilly conditions, Conley said.
From elected officials to agency representatives and dozens of curious community members, a high-voltage crowd arrived at the community center around 11 a.m., just as DJ Muchi Nochi began to electrify the crowd with music.
“I'm here today on behalf of the agency just to see the community come together and have fun.” said Victoria Wozniak, who serves as an intern and the Athens reentry coordinator for Ohio Means Jobs. “We're here representing the agency.”
The bus hood was popped open as attendees got to view the inner workings and interior of the bus. Shortly after, the bus began giving joy rides around the parking lot.
“I'm very excited to be here because I think it's a great way to bring the community together, have everyone kind of get excited because that can be a little difficult in these times of the year,” said Olivia Casey, an Ohio University junior studying child and family studies and intern at Ohio Means Jobs.
The entire exterior of the bus is painted with a colorful mural, which was created due to a partnership with Passion Works Studio and art students from Federal Hocking Middle School.
Although there is now only one electric bus in the Athens Public Transit fleet, there are plans to expand the technology in southeastern Ohio, Conley said.
“We currently have eight buses that are equivalent to this size bus, and so we have a plan that over the next five to seven years to slowly replace our gasoline fleet with electric vehicles,” Conley said.
Conley said that having an electric bus also adds an additional advantage to the region, by giving those an opportunity to experience the new technology without having to own a personal electric vehicle.
The exposure to electric vehicles also allows the community to learn and understand that the technology is a safe and reliable form of transportation, Conley said.
The new electric bus is now available to the community and can be seen traveling around the region.