WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita Transit on Thursday unveiled the first battery-electric zero-emission buses in Kansas at a press conference. The four new buses will begin operating on routes early next year and will replace several diesel buses.

The city scored a nearly $2 million federal grant to purchase the buses from ProTerra. Wichita Transit estimates each electric bus will last 12 years and save the city $462,000 in that time compared to its diesel counterparts. The buses will charge overnight and should have enough power to run 150 miles by morning. Officials hope the buses will attract new riders.

Bus charging stations (KSN Photo)

“As you can see it is quiet, no emissions, no sound. We can carry on conversations. These are things no one ever thought of 10 or 15 years ago in public transportation,” said Mike Tann, Wichita Transit Director.

Mokhtee Ahmad, one of two members of the Federal Transit Administration on hand at the dedication, said the advantage of taking a bus is that you can text and ride instead of driving.

“However, if you ride the bus, you will have all the time you can. It is so quiet, that you can text and drive and even talk on your phone,” said Ahmad.

After the conference, those in attendance received a 15-minute ride on one of the buses. KSN News talked to one rider who said she may consider riding the bus more often.

“The bus is totally thrilling. It is just magic,” said Jane Byrnes, Wichita. “The cost savings, the air savings, the pollution. Yes, this is totally superior. It is a piece of pride. We are the first in Kansas to get an electric bus.”

Wichita Transit will transition into even more electric buses in the future.

Right now, transit operates 18 fixed bus routes six days a week. In 2018, Wichita served more than 1.4 million riders. Services include traditional fixed routes, a newly expanded downtown trolley service, and a demand-response paratransit service. Complete route and schedule information are available at wichitatransit.org. The city hopes to create an app to show riders which routes the new buses will be traveling on.

In addition to the buses, the city received a $14.2 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to build a replacement transit center to meet current and future regional transportation needs.