Raleigh-Durham International Airport is doubling the size of its fleet of electric shuttle buses.
RDU’s governing board voted Thursday to buy four 40-passenger electric buses to carry people between the terminals and remote parking lots. They’ll join four electrics that RDU began using in May 2019.
The new buses will cost $924,853 each, or about $3.7 million all together. A grant from the Federal Aviation Administration will cover nearly $1.4 million, while the rest will come from RDU.
The electrics cost more than standard diesels, but RDU officials say the savings in fuel and maintenance make them a good deal in the long run. The buses are also quieter and smoother and produce less greenhouse gas emissions than the diesels they’ll replace.
With this order, eight of RDU’s fleet of 12 shuttle buses will be electric and four will run on diesel.
The RDU Airport Authority initially decided to buy four new electric buses in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic decimated air travel and caused the airport to close its remote lots. That purchase was put on hold.
Air travel has rebounded, with passenger traffic at about 83% of where it was in 2019, and RDU officials decided to go ahead with the order.
The buses will be built by Proterra Inc., a California company with a plant in Greenville, South Carolina. It will be about 18 months before they arrive at the airport.
RDU was the first public bus system in the Triangle to begin using electrics. Since then, GoTriangle, GoRaleigh, GoDurham, Chapel Hill Transit and Duke University have each put at least two electric buses on the road, often with the help of federal grants.