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PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — European transit company FlixMobility and Northwest bus service MTRWestern have teamed up to launch a new electric bus line in the Pacific Northwest. The plan is that a “FlixBus” interstate electric bus route will stop at Seattle, Portland, Corvallis and Eugene, starting some time in 2022.

The pilot program made two trips on Nov. 28, departing from Seattle and ending at Portland’s Union Station. After a three-hour charging layover at Electric Island on Swan Island, the all-electric bus went on to Corvallis and Eugene.

“Since our entry into the U.S. market in 2018, FlixBus has believed in the potential of the U.S. intercity bus system,” said Pierre Gourdain, Managing Director of FlixBus USA. “With this project, we continue our path of providing millions of people sustainable and affordable mobility and help ensure that intercity buses are central to the green mobility revolution.”

The pilot program is designed to illustrate the viability of the route, though additional high-voltage charging stations that can accommodate large vehicles will be needed to make the electric buses a regular option. At present, Electric Island is the only charging station with the space and infrastructure to charge the buses.

“We would love to be running electric buses up and down I-5, but the infrastructure is just not there yet for mass transit,” stated Todd Paulson, Director of Operations for MTRWestern. “To run something like this, we need more of these stations throughout the Pacific Northwest. Today we had a full charge in Seattle and we were at 30% when we got to Portland. So we have to charge the bus. We’ll go to Corvallis and Eugene, then we’ll have to charge here again.”

FlixBus launched the United States’ first long-range, electric-powered motorcoach in California with a route between San Francisco and Sacramento in October 2019. MTRWestern currently runs diesel buses on the Seattle-Eugene route.

Electric bus routes may soon become more practical to operate. The U.S. infrastructure bill allocated $65 billion to improve the national power grid, with clean energy funding included, as well as $39 billion to improve the nation’s public transit systems. The bill includes funds for the development of new bus routes and improved accessibility to public transit options.