IndyGo testing new electric bus for Red Line as another city struggles with the same model

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Work is underway on the IndyGo Red Line, which is a multi-million dollar project that hopes to bring rapid transit to Indianapolis. On Monday, IndyGo showed off the first of its new electric buses that will make up the fleet for dedicated bus lanes.

The 60-foot long bus was delivered in September and IndyGo has been testing it since then. The electric vehicles are expected to travel 275 miles per charge and cost $1.2 million each. Rides on the bus are noticeably quieter than traditional buses. These newer vehicles will also provide bike racks for riders.

"Preliminary results have been pretty encouraging but we are really running this vehicle through the paces and developing a solid training program," said Bryan Luellen, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications for IndyGo. "We’re really aiming for this consistency. It's a little early but early results are good."

But, leaders in Albuquerque, New Mexico say they are having a very different experience with the same manufacturer that is making very similar buses for Indianapolis. BYD entered into contracts with both cities for their respective rapid transit projects.

"They have yet to propose a meaningful solution to the significant battery life challenges," said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller about BYD. "We are rejecting all of the buses and sending them all back and we are likely going to seek damages from BYD."

During a press conference last week, Keller also said they found problems with the buses' brakes and doors.

FOX59 asked Luellen how IndyGo is responding to these developments.

"As an industry we do learn from each other," Luellen said. "We have reached out and are getting some additional information and trying to get the story straight from them about the issues they’ve had."

He also said there are key differences between the buses in Albuquerque and the ones coming to Indianapolis.

"On this bus, it’s a different type of battery," Luellen said. "We have longer lead time to do the testing and training."

A representative for BYD was in Indianapolis Monday insists the problems in Albuquerque are due to driver error – not mechanical problems.

"We believe the technology that we are using at Indy Go is safe," said Micheal Austin, vice president of BYD America. "The buses are safe."

Another 12 electric buses from BYD are expected to be delivered to IndyGo by next fall.

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