KXAN Austin

CapMetro receives nearly $8.5M in settlement and grants; tests new electric vans

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Capital Metro is greener after receiving millions from a settlement and grants, and we’re not just talking money.

CapMetro received almost $3.5 million — a portion of the Texas Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust settlement in August, per their press release. This is the largest contract ever awarded in Central Texas.

But that’s not the only money they’ve received. CapMetro applied for and received two other grants last year. They won a grant with the Clean Fleets Program through the Texas Commission on Environmental Equality (TCEQ), which allowed them to replace some diesel buses with zero-emission electric buses. The latest one was through the Low-No Emission program. That totals about $8.5 million between the grants and settlement.

(Courtesy: Todd Bailey/KXAN)

The plan is to use the new funds to purchase cleaner, more sustainable vehicles in the future. They mark another milestone towards CapMetro’s Project Connect.

The transit agency began the charge with testing out two fully electric paratransit vans, which are wheelchair accessible. They are looking at the latest models to see if they will add them to its fleet. Each is powered by a battery.

Director of Vehicle Maintenance, Andrew Murphy who has been with CapMetro over fifteen years said “We’ve been running one of these vehicles for a week and a half, the other one just got here this week and it’s hit service two or three times. The feedback from both drivers and passengers has been very positive.”

CapMetro demonstrated the paratransit vans Thursday morning outside their south base facility off of Thompson Lane. Murphy drove KXAN around.

The demo’s goals are to assess vehicle performance, including:

“We carry very precious cargo, our passengers, so we want to make sure it’s the right vehicle,” Murphy said.

This isn’t the first time they’ve tested electric models.

Last summer, CapMetro ran three full-size electric buses up and down Austin for two to three weeks each. They collected feedback and data from passengers, drivers and mechanics. As a result, in 2020, the company will buy 10 full-size electric buses.

“It’s all about making sure you’re on top of the market that’s available,” Murphy said. “It was really nice to be able to buy those 10 buses for basically the same amount out of pocket as a diesel bus, cause the rest is being supplied by the grant money.”

The paratransit vans will run out of Capital Metro’s south base facility, and be on the streets for two weeks. The Phoenix Motorcars van will operate from October 2 — 11. The GreenPower van will operate from Oct. 9 — 18.