Casper Area Transit bus (City of Casper)

CASPER, Wyo. — On Tuesday, a consulting firm that is conducting a study for the Casper Area Metropolitan Planning Organization exploring the feasibility of converting the Casper Area Transit bus fleet to low- or zero-tailpipe-emission vehicles delivered a presentation to the Casper City Council.

Rob Mowat and Tyler Hopkins with HDR Engineering told the City Council they had met with Wyoming Department of Transportation and Rocky Mountain Power personnel on Tuesday as their team kicks off the feasibility study. The team has also had the chance to ride on the routes around the Casper area.

The study, which is expected to be fully complete by June, would help decision-makers in the community decide if and when it might make sense for Casper Area Transit to pursue federal funding available for the fleet conversion, Mowat told the council. The study itself is being funded by Federal Transit Administration funds allocated to the Casper Area MPO and is being conducted at the “strong” recommendation of the FTA, Casper Area MPO Supervisor Beth Andress said.

Mowat showed the City Council that FTA funding for low- or zero-emission vehicles is expected to rise dramatically starting in 2024. The feasibility study for Casper will not mandate that the community pursue a conversion, but would rather help position it to do so if or when that makes sense, he added.

Hopkins told the City Council that zero-tailpipe-emission electric cutaway buses — the style of the 22 gas or diesel buses that are part of Casper Area Transit’s existing fleet — are available on the market. He added that Rocky Mountain Power indicated power supply is sufficient should the city wish to pursue the conversion. Some power infrastructure would need to be added.

A factor that might be an issue for Casper Area Transit’s needs, though, is the range of the fully electric cutaway-style buses, Hopkins said. Casper Area Transit buses average 70–150 miles per day but can run as much as 200 miles per day. The battery electric cutaway buses available on the market currently have a max range of around 170 miles, Hopkins said. That range declines over time as batteries age and is impacted by factors like cold weather, he added.

If a full fleet conversion were to be pursued immediately, Casper might need to purchase extra vehicles or some fast chargers in order to get around the range limitations of the current generation of electric cutaway buses. There are no hydrogen fuel cell cutaway-style buses available on the market, Hopkins told the City Council.

Councilor Michael Bond asked whether hybrid buses were an option as those might make sense in Casper’s climate. Mowat said hybrid buses are available that offer 30–35% less tailpipe emissions than traditional-fuel buses.

After presenting to the City Council, HDR Engineering is set to be available in the lobby of City Hall from 6–8 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the study with the public.

Further details are available in the following staff memo: