Duluth temporarily parks electric buses for braking, heat improvements

The Duluth Transit Authority parked its fleet of seven electric buses in late November to address issues with hill braking and heat. The buses were introduced in October, and were purchased via federal grant as a way of testing electric technology in Duluth's cold weather and hilly streets.

DULUTH - Issues with hill braking and on-board heat led the Duluth Transit Authority to pull its new fleet of electric buses from routes on the last day of November.

A hill-hold feature on the buses’ brake systems was not catching in time, and buses taking off uphill were rolling back too far from bus stops and traffic signals.

The buses are in the process of making it back to the streets, but not before passing field tests and updating driver training, said general manager Phil Pumphrey on Wednesday, Dec. 12. While no incidents had occurred because of the issues, pulling the buses was described as a precautionary measure.

The DTA started using the electric buses on routes Nov. 19.

The buses were customized to include a diesel auxiliary heater.

The DTA found that running the primary electric heaters were causing the buses to lose battery life and limiting the expected range of the buses. The fix: the diesel heaters will be brought online as the primary heating source, relegating the electric heat to auxiliary.