Location: Chatham Area Transit (CAT)
Fleet Type: County Government Transit (Medium- and Heavy-duty)

 

Narrative

Chatham Area Transit (CAT) is the transit authority for Chatham County, Georgia. CAT has transported citizens of Chatham County since 1987. CAT has recently been dedicated to sustainability efforts through their fleet transition of electric buses and paratransit vehicles. As of 2023, CAT operates 16 electric vehicles. There are six fixed-route buses (3 40-ft buses and 3 35-ft buses) and 10 Ford Vans for paratransit.

In order to be successful in this endeavor, CAT has maintained a close working relationship with the vehicle manufacturers, making sure the vehicles are maintained and in good order. It has also been important to make sure the operators and technicians are familiar and comfortable with the equipment, which has been a challenge. The biggest hurdle, however, has been the charging infrastructure. Very long lead times have led to less than optimum usage of the electric buses. CAT has a diesel generator to charge vehicles in case of emergencies, including for hurricane evacuations and resilience planning.

Depending on the range of the vehicle, innovative solutions may be required. For CAT, the paratransit vehicles have about a 100 miles range and have to be rotated in order to complete their daily assignments. The fixed-route buses have a 150-mile range but are replaced with diesel-powered buses in the afternoon in order to complete the route. As the number of EVs increases and the diesel vehicles are phased out, CAT will need to consider increasing the size of its fleet or having on-route charging available.

Outputs & Outcomes

Outputs: CAT has actively participated in Clean Cities Georgia-sponsored “Clean Energy Roadshows” in Savannah annually for the past 13 years. CAT and County and City representatives have attended these roadshows each year in order to learn what resources are available for electrifying their fleet. Since then, Clean Cities Georgia has assisted in an EV gaps analysis for EV charging, bus routes, and growth in Chatham County, GA. The goal was to assist Chatham County in understanding its current and future transit needs. The below map is an illustration of this product.

Outcomes: Advanced knowledge of fleet managers in the subjects of alternative fuels and electrification through knowledge sharing such as the Clean Energy Roadshows led to the purchase of CAT electric buses.


Best Practices & Lessons Learned

  1. The importance of talking to your utility cannot be stressed enough. Because of delays with charger infrastructure installation, CAT has not been able to use the vehicles at their full capacity due to the inability to charge the entire fleet.
  2. While diesel-powered generators are not recommended for everyday use, it is important to consider this type of option for hurricane evacuation routes. Resilience planning often requires innovative solutions, many of which are not yet viable for more sustainable options.
  3. Driver and maintenance training for bus drivers is lacking. While OEMs give this training to drivers upon bus purchase, it is important for fleets to have on-demand training available for new hires and refresher courses for current staff.

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Chatham Area Transit (CAT) Fleet Story

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