The battery-electric bus typically drives along the Packer Express route and is open for students to ride on. Lehigh pledged last year to increase electric vehicle purchases to become more environmentally sustainable. (Danielle Betterman/B&W Staff)

Battery bus aids in Lehigh’s sustainability efforts

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The battery-electric bus, a collaboration between Lehigh University Transportation Services and the BYD Bus Company, allows for easy travel for students around Lehigh’s campus while promoting sustainability.   

Usually, the battery bus drives along the Packer Express route, however, the bus is also used for other transportation needs around campus. 

Sharon Field, director of transportation and parking services, said the bus was acquired to support Lehigh’s sustainability goals.

“The electric bus produces lower emissions since it relies on electric, compared to the diesel-powered buses,” Field said. “This subsequently results in cleaner air for the Lehigh Valley environment.”

Field said while the bus presents advantages to students and the surrounding community, there have still been challenges.

“The initial main issues we faced were driver training and a location to support charging the electric bus,” Field said.

Despite initial obstacles, the Office of Transportation Services navigated these issues so the bus could serve as a sustainable and accessible transportation option for students.

“We had 14 full-time drivers who needed assistance in becoming familiar with the electrical components of the battery bus and the regeneration process when the bus goes downhill,” Field said. “Luckily, the BYD Bus Company provided an employee to help train all the drivers with these processes.”

Another issue that arose concerned the charging port necessary to power the bus. Field said if the port were to be installed at the Office of Transportation Services, it would cost nearly $80,000. To remedy this, the charger resides on the Mountaintop Campus as the electrical infrastructure needed for the port was already present.

Emily Cheshire, ’24, enjoys the bus rides around campus.

“There is a bus stop conveniently located near my dorm, which makes it easily accessible whenever I decide to take the bus,” Cheshire said. “One of the bus drivers plays Taylor Swift music, which makes the ride even more enjoyable.”

Cheshire also appreciates how the battery bus is environmentally friendly and prefers to ride this bus over the diesel-fueled buses. 

Similarly, Christina Flynn, ‘23, expressed positive feelings toward the new bus. 

“I had a good experience on the bus due to its convenience and easy accessibility,” Flynn said. “It was very similar to the Packer Express.”

Further enhancing the school’s sustainability goals, Transportation and Parking Services have also installed electric vehicle charging stations for faculty, staff, students and visitors to use. These stations are located in the Alumni, Farrington and Zoellner parking garages and the Iacocca Hall north parking lot.

“These stations were installed not only to support electric vehicle drivers, but also to encourage others to purchase electric vehicles,” Field said.

Going forward, Field said the university is contemplating various transportation fixes that would make Lehigh more sustainable.

“Diesel-powered buses are not an environmentally sustainable idea, but the university will decide how we move forward,” Field said. “We are currently conducting an alternative fuel study which will include recommendations regarding purchasing more electric buses, investing in hydrogen or compressed natural gas powered buses. It will be a big decision for the university.”

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