(Updated at 9:30 a.m. on 8/23/23) Arlington County’s efforts to electrify transit just jolted forward.
Arlington’s transit system, ART, is getting its first batch of battery electric buses, or BEB, as it pursues carbon neutrality by 2050, according to a press release. The vehicles will be deployed in late 2024 after work wraps up on the new Operations and Maintenance Facility on Shirlington Road.
With $3.3 million in state and $1.2 million in local funds, the county is buying four American-made buses by the company Gillig, which drivers and riders tested out along with other options over the last year.
“Delivering transit service is at the core of who we are and what we do, when it comes to realizing our vision of smart growth that is environmentally conscious and sustainable,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a statement.
Transit Bureau Chief Lynn Rivers said in a statement that this purchase is the county’s second step toward a “greener, healthier future for Arlington Transit.”
“The first step began with our public vehicle demonstrations of BEB technology,” she said. “The partnership with Gillig points us in the right direction for a reliable and resilient zero-emission transit fleet that contributes to a cleaner, healthier County.”
The release says the battery electric buses are part of an effort to test out new technologies while maintaining current reliable levels of service.
Arlington’s Transit Bureau could also be testing out advances in fuel technology for 15 buses it is buying to replace aging vehicles within ART’s 78-bus fleet.
Unlike the four electric buses, these 15 will be powered by compressed natural gas — essentially compressed methane — like the rest of the ART fleet. While compressed natural gas produces fewer emissions than petrol, is still considered nonrenewable because underground reservoirs make up its largest source.
For the 15 new buses, the transit bureau is looking at using renewable natural gas, or methane that has already been used or captured from landfill emissions, Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors told ARLnow.
Meanwhile, the county is outfitting its forthcoming bus operations and maintenance facility with electric charging capabilities.
Initially, the county aimed to get electric buses operating from the facility in 2025, but the 2024 deployment date means it is ahead of schedule.
“The facility is projected to reach substantial completion in 2024 — a little faster than initially expected, and we are expecting to receive revisions of the 100% design for BEB infrastructure in the fall of this year,” Pors said.
As work continues on a new Arlington Transit bus facility in Green Valley, Arlington is taking steps to make it work for electric buses.
Electrifying buses is part of the county’s goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. To reach that goal, it needs to buy battery-powered electric buses and have a place to charge them.
Construction is currently set to wrap up next fall on a new ART Operations and Maintenance Facility at 2629 Shirlington Road and the county aims to have electric buses on-site by 2025. Meanwhile, Arlington is testing out different buses to see which to add to its fleet, piloting buses from two providers last year and possibly testing some from up to two more manufacturers.
With work progressing on both these fronts in tandem, plans for the facility moved forward with partially baked designs for charging infrastructure. This has set the county up to need to amend its design and construction contracts associated with the $96.6 million project as it learns more about what it needs to build.
This weekend, the Arlington County Board is set to tack on almost $585,000 to an existing $4.5 million design contract with Stantec Architecture to fully flesh plans to add up to 46 charging stalls that can accommodate up to 63 buses.
“As [Battery Electric Bus] concept plans were developed, the County proceeded with the 60% design for BEB charging infrastructure,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Alyson Jordan Tomaszewski said. “The design scope expanded as the 60% design progressed and as more details about the County BEB requirements were identified.”
Once these designs are 100% complete, the county will update its construction contract with Turner Construction, authorizing it to purchase and install the charging equipment needed for the initial BEB pilot program, per a county report.
“The 100% design will provide capacity to add additional charging cabinets and equipment when additional BEBs are purchased,” it says.
Right now, something of a placeholder contract says the contractor has up to nearly $11.9 million to spend on above-grade charging equipment.
“This includes the necessary switchgear, transformers, chargers, and associated equipment to charge an initial increment of electric buses,” per a 2022 report. “It also includes canopies and solar panel over the canopies.”
That sum is on top of the $66.4 million contract to build the facility and below-grade charging infrastructure. These plans were approved with the expectation that the county would be buying electric buses sometime this spring.
While operating electric buses from the facility seems to have long been the plan, some neighbors had advocated for more fully baked plans for charging capabilities when the project was being developed.
Instead, designs stayed vague “to accommodate future fleet electrification” but be flexible enough to incorporate future technology, per a 2021 community presentation.
Construction on the facility continues apace and the county is still targeting a fall 2024 completion, Tomaszewski said.
“The erection of the steel structure on the Operations and Maintenance building was completed on March 17,” per the website. “In the next few weeks, crews will work on completing detailing of the steel, placing the metal deck, and completing the roof screening wall.”
Construction started last year, with a groundbreaking in June.
Buses are temporarily being stored on a property across the street from Washington-Liberty HIgh School, near a collection of homes. The county and some residents are embroiled in a lawsuit about whether the operations have impacted their quality of life.
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.
Motor, a startup incubated by Arlington-based energy company AES Corporation, has raised $7 million in Series A funding.
The company is trying to smooth the “fragmented” experience of buying an electric car. It works with utility companies to create a utility-managed charging program that makes it easier for customers to start driving electric, the Washington Business Journal first reported.
Currently, the process of buying an electric vehicle and connecting it to the grid can deter many customers, Motor said in a press release. That makes it harder for the auto industry to achieve President Joe Biden’s goal of boosting electric vehicles sales so they account for half of all U.S. car sales by 2030.
Motor says it removes those barriers by partnering with utility companies.
“Motor has redesigned the EV customer journey to provide utilities with the tools they need to maximize electrification outcomes — both accelerating adoption and driving high enrollment in utilities’ managed charging programs,” per the press release.
“When a utility hires Motor, its customers get an easy, low-commitment, and all-in-one experience that includes a car, home delivery, EV onboarding, charging installation, and utility program enrollment,” it adds.
More from WBJ:
For individual car owners, Motor offers a $749 month-to-month lease package that for what it lacks in cost-savings it wants to make up for in convenience and low-risk commitment. It wraps up the whole process of leasing a car, getting insurance, installing a charging station and maintenance in one application and pricing model that can be canceled at anytime.
Electric utility companies, meanwhile, have their own motives for getting more people in EVs, it says. Companies can meet their own decarbonization goals while increasing demand for electricity and maintaining affordable utility rates.
The new funding will “accelerate its growth into new geographies, refine its digital EV adoption experience, and expand its industry partnerships,” per the press release.
Motor is registered at AES Corporation’s Ballston headquarters at 4300 Wilson Blvd but it also operates in Indianapolis. AES, a Fortune 500 energy company that owns and operates regional utilities and develops energy projects, led the fundraising round along with Mitsubishi Corporation, Japan’s largest trading company, with businesses spanning industries such as machinery and metals.
“Our partnership with Motor has contributed significantly to EV adoption in our market, with an increase of more than 20% in Motor’s launch year in the Indianapolis area,” said Kristina Lund, the president and CEO of two subsidiaries of AES that provide electric services to parts of Indiana and Ohio.
“Motor’s seamless signup process enrolls more than 75% of eligible drivers into managed charging programs, an outcome that benefits all customers,” she added.
Those not ready to buy an electric car, but who are willing to test one out, can take advantage of Motor’s monthly subscription service and drive certain models of Tesla, Audi, Volkswagen, Nissan and Ford.
“We are also introducing an online car buying service,” Motor’s website says. “The future is assuredly electric.”
Motor was founded in 2019 and has under 50 employees, per LinkedIn.
Dozens of Arlington Public Schools students now hop aboard the system’s first electric school buses.
When students returned from winter break, the county and APS replaced two of its 190 diesel engine buses with emissions-free “and almost noise-free” battery-powered electric ones, the county has announced.
The first two buses are transporting students with disabilities and can each carry up to 38 students. They are expected to log a typical 8,000 miles annually.
After the buses arrived in November, drivers and mechanics received vendor training. The third bus is expected to arrive by the end of January.
“Officials will study data, driving and service experiences with the new vehicles to explore possible expansion of the [battery electric school buses] inventory,” per the county press release.
The buses were purchased with a $795,000 state grant awarded in 2021. As part of the Clean School Bus Program, 19 Virginia districts were awarded with enough funding to replace a total of 83 diesel buses with electric or propane ones.
“Funding for the grant comes from the Volkswagen (VW) Environmental Mitigation Trust, intended to provide the state with about $93 million to mitigate the excess nitrogen oxide emissions caused by VW’s use of illegal emissions testing defeat devices in certain VW diesel vehicles,” the county said in a press release announcing the funding in August 2021.
The Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services Equipment Bureau services the school system’s fleet of vehicles as well as the county government’s entire fleet, from the Trades Center in Shirlington.
“The County is recognized as a leader in environmental sustainability efforts,” it said in its announcement. “This month, Arlington announced it had achieved its goal of 100% renewable electricity use at all County facilities, two years ahead of schedule.”
Arlington County adopted in 2019 a Community Energy Plan that aimed to power all county facilities with renewable electricity by 2025. Now, it has two more goals to tackle: By 2035, the county aims to power 100% of Arlington’s electricity with renewable sources, and by 2050, the county aims to be carbon neutral.
(Updated at 9:15 a.m. on 6/16/22) A new ordinance would mean no more free rides for users of county-owned electric vehicle charging stations.
A proposed interim fee of 14.52 cents per kilowatt-hour would reimburse the Arlington County for the cost of providing charging services, according to a report to the County Board, which will be taking up the item at its meeting this weekend. The new fee would go into effect on Monday, July 18, Department of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin said.
Currently, there are seven available charging stations owned by the county, providing a total of 11 charging spaces for the public, at the Arlington Mill Community Center and the Long Bridge Aquatics Center.
If the proposal passes, the interim fee is set to remain in place while the county plans for expanding governmental electric vehicle charging stations.
Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services is hiring a consultant to come up with a “future recommendation on a permanent EV rate structure and charging model,” the board report says. The interim fee is set to serve as a pilot for the future plan.
The county has put signs up at the two charging stations it operates to inform users that the stations will no longer be free beginning in July, according to the report.
Although the proposed fee is higher than the current fee in neighboring Loudoun County, which charges per session, it is lower than other commercial stations. Those commercial stations charge between 22 cents per kilowatt-hour and 79 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to the board report.
Many charging stations operated by EVgo, the largest electric vehicle fast charging company in the U.S., charges around 36 cents per kWh.
The County Board is expected to vote this Saturday (June 18) to advertise the proposed change, before final approval at its Saturday, July 16, meeting.
Animal Shelter at Capacity — “Our dog kennels are at capacity (every single kennel is occupied)… but what about your home? That extra seat on your couch sure would be a lot cuter with a furry friend curled up on it.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Fox 5]
Parents Peeved at Teacher Transfer — From an online petition with nearly 500 signatures: “Dr. Sharon Gaston has worked at Taylor Elementary school for 12 years as the lead reading specialist. For the past 11 years she was appointed under 2 different principals as their designee. This past school year she applied to be the principal and unfortunately was passed over. The new principal… is transferring her to a high school. Why? We want answers.” [Change.org]
APS Announces New Principals — “So happy and proud to announce that Ms. Frances Lee has been appointed as the next principal of Ashlawn Elementary! She is currently assistant principal of Escuela Key.” “At the April 28 School Board meeting, the School Board appointed Ms. Bridget Loft as the new Swanson principal. Her appointment is effective May 3.” [Twitter, Arlington Public Schools]
New Japanese Eatery at Mall Food Court — “Sarku Japan… The largest and most successful Japanese Quick Service Restaurant chain in the US is coming! Come celebrate the grand opening of Sarku Japan at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. Sample their famous signature chicken teriyaki at the food court.” [Twitter]
Arlington Man Sentenced for Bias Attack — “A man from Arlington, Virginia, was found guilty and sentenced Friday for a hate crime attack on two Latino construction workers back in 2019. A judge sentenced Kurt Madsen, 53, to 540 days — nearly a year and a half — in jail, but suspended his term to time served as long as he completes two years of probation. Before his trial, Madsen spent 160 days in jail.” [WTOP, U.S. DOJ]
Police Memorial Ceremony Planned — “The annual Arlington County Peace Officers Memorial Day Ceremony will be held on Tuesday, May 10 at 8 a.m. at the Arlington County Justice Center, 1425 North Courthouse Road… The public is invited; the event also will be live streamed through the county government’s Facebook page.” [Sun Gazette]
Metro Starting to Buy Electric Buses — “New details of Metro’s Zero-Emission Bus Transition Plan, presented at this week’s meeting of the Board of Directors, outlines how the agency will transition to a zero-emission bus fleet including testing and evaluation, infrastructure and facility upgrades, and procurement efforts.” [WMATA]
It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 76 and low of 61. Sunrise at 6:10 am and sunset at 8:03 pm. [Weather.gov]
Today (Friday) marks the last day lawmakers can file legislation to be considered in the 2022 session.
Several of the bills Arlington County legislators introduced align with County Board priorities — from making permanent electronic participation in public meetings to increasing state funding for affordable housing and including race and ethnicity on driver’s licenses.
They’ve also introduced legislation to address issues that came up in the community last year.
After residents exposed poor living conditions at the Serrano Apartments to ARLnow, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) pre-filed a handful of bills aimed at strengthening tenant protections. Lopez also appears to have taken inspiration from the Advanced Towing saga with a bill that would make tow truck driver violations subject to the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
Here’s a roundup of some other bills Arlington’s lawmakers put forward.
- Independent policing auditor: This bill, House Bill 670, would allow Arlington County to appoint an independent policing auditor who will support the law enforcement Community Oversight Board that was created out of the Police Practices Group recommendations. Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) is chief patron of the bill.
- Law-enforcement officers; conduct of investigation: HB 870, which Lopez introduced, would require an officer who was involved in a shooting to be interviewed within 24 hours of the incident.
- Beverage container deposit and redemption program: HB 826, introduced by Hope, would establish a beverage container deposit, refund and redemption program involving distributors, retailers and consumers. There would be an advisory committee, required reporting and civil and criminal penalties for violations.
- Packaging Stewardship Program and Fund: The bill, HB 918, would allow the state Department of Environmental Quality to charge sellers in the commonwealth a fee for the amount of packaging their products use and if they’re easily recyclable. Those fees would be paid into a fund and used to reimburse participating localities for expenses related to recycling, invest in recycling infrastructure and education and pay the program’s administrative costs. Lopez introduced the bill.
- Parking of vehicles; electric vehicle charging spots; civil penalties: Senate Bill 278 prohibits a person from parking non-electric vehicles in electric vehicle charging spots. It sets a civil penalty between $100 and $250 with the possibility the vehicle is towed or impounded. Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) introduced the bill.
- Driving Decarbonization Program and Fund. This legislation, HB 351, would establish a program and a fund that would assist developers with non-utility costs associated with installation of electric vehicle charging stations. It was introduced by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48).
- Insurance; paid family leave: SB 15, introduced by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31), would establish paid family leave as a class of insurance that would pay for the income an employee loses after the birth of a child or because the employee is caring for a child or family member.
- Hospitals; financial assistance for uninsured patient, payment plans: This bill, SB 201, requires hospitals to screen every uninsured patient, determine if they’re eligible for financial assistance under the hospital’s plan and create a payment plan. The bill also prohibits certain collection actions. Favola introduced the bill.
- Constitutional amendment; marriage; fundamental right to marry, same-sex marriage prohibition: This constitutional amendment, SJ 5, would repeal the constitutional provision defining marriage as only a union between one man and one woman as well as the related provisions that are no longer valid as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015. Ebbin introduced the amendment.
- Absentee voting; verification by social security or driver’s license number: SB 273, introduced by Ebbin, would make optional the current absentee ballot witness signature requirement. It would give the voter the option to provide either the last four digits of their social security number or the voter’s valid Virginia driver’s license number instead.
APS Getting EV Buses — “Arlington Public Schools (APS), working collaboratively with the County’s Department of Environmental Services (DES), will receive a $795,000 grant from the state, to be spent on three fully electric buses (EV buses) that will replace three with diesel engines. The EV vehicles, each with a capacity of some 65 passengers, will be equitably assigned to routes throughout Arlington. Currently there are no EV buses in the APS fleet of 200. The vehicles slated for replacement each travel some 8,000 miles a year.” [Arlington County, Gov. Ralph Northam]
No PARK(ing) Day This Year — “PARK(ing) Day is an annual international event where the public collaborates to temporarily transform drab parking spaces into small parks… Due to continuing COVID-19 issues, Arlington County will not participate in 2021 PARK(ing) Day. We hope to welcome participants back in 2022.” [Arlington County, Twitter]
USS Arlington to Help in Haiti — “The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) departed Naval Station Norfolk to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to Haiti in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) led mission, Aug. 17.” [Navy]
Arrests in Ashton Heights Armed Robbery — ” The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is announcing the arrest of three suspects in an armed robbery that occurred during the early morning hours on Wednesday, August 18… At approximately 1:08 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a robbery that had just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the two male victims and a witness were sitting at a bus stop in the 700 block of N. Randolph Street when the three suspects approached.” [ACPD]
Arlington Org Deals with Afghanistan Fallout — “The young women of Ascend were used to spending their days doing yoga, preparing for mountain climbing excursions and teaching women at mosques in Kabul how to read… After the Taliban swept through Afghanistan this week, retaking control after two decades as the Afghan government collapsed, most of Ascend’s participants have been sheltering at home in fear of reprisal. Some have destroyed documents that would associate them with the Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit group, and are pleading for assistance from its leadership to help them find refuge in other countries.” [Washington Post]
Arlington Bishop Talks About Trans Youth — “The topic of transgenderism is discussed routinely in the news, on television shows and in schools. This prevailing ideology — that a person can change his or her gender — is impacting Catholic families, too, said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington… Burbidge knows many will be criticized and ostracized for their belief that men and women cannot change their sex, but he asks the faithful to speak out anyway. ‘We cannot be silenced. The mandate to speak on this issue clearly and lovingly is greater than ever,’ he said.” [Catholic News Service]
Arlington is ‘Best City for Road Trips’ in Va. — “In each state, there are some cities with particularly novel and exciting opportunities to soak up some of the local history and culture without breaking the bank. From underrated smaller communities to large metropolises, these are the cities you want to hit on your road trip this summer in 2021.” [Insurify]
Attempted Art Theft from Garage — “4700 block of 36th Street N. At approximately 10:32 p.m. on June 23, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary in progress. Upon arrival, officers located the suspect on scene and detained him without incident. The investigation revealed the male suspect gained entry into the victim’s garage and attempted to remove paintings.” [ACPD]
W-L Softball Wins Regional Title — “It’s hard to lose if the opponents don’t score much, and that was the successful formula for the Washington-Liberty Generals en route to winning the 6D North Region Tournament championship. The girls high-school softball team (13-5) won the crown with a 4-0 record, defeating the host Langley Saxons, 4-1, in the title game. The region championship was W-L’s first in program history.” [Sun Gazette]
Pike Library Renovation Celebration — “The public is invited to attend the grand opening and community celebration of the newly renovated Columbia Pike Library on Thursday, July 8, 4-6 p.m. Join members of the County Board and Library Director Diane Kresh in the ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by family-friendly events, music and ice cream, and a tour of the transformed Library Branch.” [Arlington Public Library]
F.C. Cemetery Full of Arlington History — “An array of Arlington’s historic notables are buried across our southern border in Falls Church City. I received a tour of the open-to-the-public Oakwood Cemetery just off Roosevelt Blvd. behind Eden Center… Don’t miss the marker for Amanda Febrey, who died in 1913 of tuberculosis at age 14, and whose ghost is said to have haunted the clubhouse at Overlee swim club.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Metro Is Electrifying Its Bus Fleet — “Today, Metro’s Board of Directors.. took a major step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving local air quality with the approval of a new Metrobus fleet strategy that would create a 100% zero-emission bus fleet by 2045, with a full transition to electric or other zero-emission bus purchases by 2030.” [WMATA]
Once can hardly go a block in some parts of Arlington without spotting a Tesla, but the vast majority of vehicles on local streets are still powered by fossil fuels.
The proportion of electric vehicles on the road is expected to increase, albeit gradually. The Edison Electric Institute expects 3.5 million electric vehicles to be sold annually in the U.S. in 2030; that compares to the total of 17 million vehicles sold last year.
The switch to electric will have a number of advantages: less noise along busy roads, lower operating and maintenance costs, and a cleaner environment.
From a WTOP article yesterday:
Switching to electric vehicles would save lives, time and money, and the D.C. area would be one of the prime beneficiaries, a new study finds.
The American Lung Association’s Road to Clean Air report placed D.C. among the top 10 metropolitan areas that would benefit from a switchover to electric cars, buses and trucks by the middle of the century.
Compared with a “business as usual” scenario, the D.C. area would see about 175 fewer premature deaths a year by 2050; nearly 3,000 fewer asthma attacks; about 12,000 fewer lost workdays per year and more than $2 million in public health benefits, the association said in a statement.
Today we’re wondering: how many Arlingtonians are planning to buy an electric vehicle over the next 10 years?
Photo via Twitter
This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.
As we move into Phase 2 opening, we will continue our virtual solar and electric vehicle (EV) co-op sessions.
More than 200 homeowners have already installed solar panels as part of our Solar and Electric Vehicle Charger Co-op.
This spring, we’ve already had more than 280 homeowners attend virtual co-op sessions. Sixty-nine families have already had their roofs screened, verified as viable for solar, and they have joined the Co-op.
This June, we’ll continue with 3 additional information sessions. Please RSVP and join us to learn more:
- June 23 — 6 p.m. Info Session link
- June 26 — 12 p.m. Info Session link
- June 30 — 12 p.m. Battery Storage 101 link
For those who may not be familiar, the Co-op helps Arlingtonians buy solar panels and EV chargers at a discounted price through bulk purchasing. The Co-op also provides support to participants to make the purchasing process easy. This year we will also provide information about storing your solar power at home in battery systems.
You can also take advantage of one of the last big federal solar tax credits. This year the solar tax credit will be 26 percent. In 2021, it will be 22 percent and in 2022 and beyond, it won’t be available for homeowners at all.
As you quarantine at home, use this opportunity to learn more about solar power, electric vehicle charging and solar battery storage. Take action today to help our community be carbon neutral by 2050.