Concept seeks federal waiver to operate
The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority is hopping on the “go green” movement by studying how the new E-Jest Minibus performs on its MVTA Connect routes in Eagan.
The electric version of Europe’s best-selling minibus rolled into the MVTA Eagan Bus Garage on March 2 and 3 to introduce it to city officials and the media.
MVTA said it is proud to be leading the first-ever revenue-generating vehicle demo of an E-Jest vehicle in the U.S. The Minibus was built in Turkey and has a BMW model electric motor. It can be driven within a 130-mile range and can fully charge in four hours.
“People in Eagan have noticed and are riding the new electric minibus that (MVTA) using to provide on-demand service through MVTA Connect, which offers low-cost transportation directly to desired destinations,” said Eagan City Council Member Gary Hansen, who serves on the MVTA Board.
Hansen saw a demonstration of the Minibus before a recent MVTA Board meeting and said: “It’s easily accessible, accommodating those with mobility challenges, and its drivers are complimentary of how well it handles.
“Public transit agencies play a critical role in helping to achieve a cleaner environment,” Hansen said. “Over the years, I’ve witnessed the challenge of replacing vehicles that MVTA uses to provide local service. This has been exacerbated by current supply chain issues.
“Electric minibuses offer a replacement alternative to help MVTA maintain its vehicle fleet while providing cleaner transit options,” Hansen said. “MVTA is taking bold steps to both reduce our carbon footprint and improve the rider experience by piloting this electric minibus.”
The minibus is one of the first ones in service in the United States, according to Dan Rudiger, director of transportation for MVTA. Rudiger along with a few others at MVTA have driven the minibus as part of an in-service demo.
“If the demo goes well, we will look at moving to a pilot and a pilot may be three to five buses,” Rudiger said.
A Canadian company brought the E-Jest to Eagan in partnership with Karsan, the Turkish company that made it. The 18-passenger vehicle is designed with an up to 12-year lifespan and is compatible with Level 2 AC and DC and Level 3 DC charging that allows for advanced and fast charging. The E-Jest has zero external emissions.
MVTA operators who have driven the E-Jest appreciate the panoramic windshield, the built-in onboard LED lighting, the location of the driver’s seat, and the turning radius, MVTA said. Passengers can expect a smooth, quiet ride with grab bars that allow for ease in boarding, they said.
On Monday the E-Jest Minibus was transported to Washington, D.C., where government transportation teams will discuss ways to increase the “Buy America” percentages for the bus.
“When you use federal dollars to buy a vehicle, you need to have so many percentages of American built and it doesn’t meet that currently,” Rudiger said.
“Part of this Washington, D.C. trip is looking for waiver from the U.S. to get it over here sooner with a plan that may be finding a way at having parts or a facility to build them here,” Rudiger said.
“There’s a pathway politically to being more environmentally friendly right now with going to electric vehicles, and we (MVTA) are kind of on the edge right now with exploring that,” said Richard Crawford, MVTA spokesperson.
There are 15 E-Jest Minibuses on the Canadian roadways and a diesel platform in Europe, Rudiger said.
The minibus will be on display at the American Public Transit Association legislative conference in Washington, D.C.
After that, the E-Jest will be transported back to Eagan and undergo further assessment.
“Hopefully it will get its traction in D.C., and it gets moving,” Rudiger said.
The Minibus that’s being used for MVTA’s Connect Service takes riders from their homes to a bus station or anywhere within a certain zone. Riders can use an MVTA smartphone app to order a Connect Service bus.
“Our Connect Service is our fastest growing service,” Crawford said.
For testing in Eagan, the Minibus had a split route for four hours in the morning and then the afternoon with drivers compiling information about its performance.
“The charge can run up to eight hours potentially although it depends on the operator,” Rudiger said. “Regenerative breaking means if you let your foot off the gas pedal when you are driving downhill, it recharges the battery when it goes downhill.”
During testing, the bus has returned from a four-hour drive with 50% charge life, Rudiger said. While braking, the vehicle regenerates up to 25% of the kinetic energy and charges the battery, contributing to its range.
“We are excited to see MVTA explore additional sustainable transit options. This e-bus not only creates additional connectivity and options to get around Eagan, but it does so in a manner that aligns with our community values,” said Joe Ellickson, spokesperson for the city of Eagan. “Residents care about our natural environment, and as a city, we and other partner agencies are reflecting that by prioritizing sustainability efforts.”
In the first weeks of the demo, the E-Jest proved capable of handling Minnesota snow and cold.
“We will test it to tell how it performs and if it will work at the MVTA,” Crawford said.
Hansen said: “I’m excited to see the agency play a leading role in the industry, and I look forward to seeing how this vehicle and those that follow will help MVTA meet its climate impact and service goals.”
Contact Kara Hildreth at email@example.com.
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