On Thursday, September 16, the City of Knoxville unveiled its first all-electric buses for its Knoxville Area Transit (KAT) fleet. City leaders, KAT officials and other stakeholders gathered at Caswell Park to celebrate this monumental electrification milestone and take a ride on the new buses. The buses will start regular service in January 2022.
According to the City’s release, five of the anticipated 12 electric buses have already arrived, and the rest will follow before the end of 2021. KAT will add six more buses in 2022, bringing the total number to 18. These 18 buses will represent 26% of the entire fleet, while another 41% are hybrid-electric models.
“Today is certainly exciting and this is a major step on our path toward a more clean and resilient future,” said Mayor Indya Kincannon. “These buses are beautiful, comfortable, clean and offer our residents a high-quality, green way to get around our city. I hope it will inspire even more commuters to benefit from KAT’S great service to our community.”
During his remarks, Isaac Thorne, Director of Transit, emphasized the importance of transportation electrification efforts and thanked key partners in the City’s efforts to invest in all-electric buses.
“In the United States, transportation is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, and consequently, climate change. Transit has the power to change that,” said Thorne. “We are grateful to Mayor Kincannon and the Knoxville City Council for their support of transit, which has allowed KAT to move in this direction of sustainability and improved technology.”
Gabe Bolas, President and Chief Executive Officer of KUB, reflected on the progress Knoxville has made transitioning from diesel to hybrid and now all-electric buses over the years. He thanked the Tennessee Valley Authority for supporting KUB’s sustainability efforts, including its April 2021 commitment to make Knoxville the No. 1 city in the Southeast for solar power investment. Bolas explained that this move will help KUB charge the new electric buses with more low-carbon, green power in the future.
This electrification investment is part of Knoxville’s larger emission reduction goals to have a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases emissions for city operations by 2030 and an 80% reduction community-wide by 2050.
“The work that we are doing in this administration is following in the footsteps and building on the successes of my predecessors, Mayor Madeline Rogero and Governor Bill Haslam,” said Mayor Kincannon. “They started the City on the path toward caring about and actually starting to reduce our carbon emissions. So, thanks to their leadership, we saw the City’s operational carbon emissions fall 32% since 2005. We’re making progress, but there is still more work to be done.”
The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council champions advanced energy – anything that makes energy cleaner, safe, more secure and more efficient – as a job creation and economic development strategy. The electrification of KAT’s fleet is another example of how Tennessee’s advanced energy economy is thriving, as recently noted in the 2021 Advanced Energy Economic Report.