King County Metro is leading the way on electric buses

Media Contacts
Morgan Folger

Former Director, Destination: Zero Carbon, Environment America

The Seattle-area transit agency is among the early adopters that have found that electric buses perform well and have often been cheaper to fuel and maintain than diesel

Environment Washington Research & Policy Center and WashPIRG Foundation


Matt Casale, WashPIRG Transportation Campaign Director, [email protected], 609-610-8002

Morgan Folger, Environment Washington Clean Cars Campaign Director, 203-343-1736,  [email protected]

Mark Morgenstein, Senior Communications Manager, (w) 303-573-5556, (c) 678-427-1671, [email protected]

SEATTLE — King County Metro, which has been successfully testing electric buses since 2016 and has an ambitious plan for a large-scale rollout over the coming years, is among the pioneers of the technology, paving the way for other cities across the country. A new report from WashPIRG Education Fund, Environment Washington and Frontier Group highlights the agency’s experience, along with those of five other early adopters, illuminating the successes, challenges and lessons learned.

“Getting to school or commuting to work shouldn’t include a daily dose of toxic pollution,” said Matt Casale, WashPIRG Transportation Campaign director. “And why would we continue to use dirty diesel buses — many of which our tax dollars pay for — if they are making the climate crisis worse?”

The report features case studies of six rollouts of electric buses, including in Seneca, South Carolina; Chicago; Seattle; Albuquerque; Twin Rivers, California, and Amherst, Cambridge and Concord, Massachusetts. 

In February 2016, King County Metro began testing a fleet of three battery electric buses. The buses’ strong performance during the test period informed the agency’s decision bring a further eight vehicles into its fleet. Testing has provided data regarding range, electricity usage, battery sizing, charging methods and limitations of the technology, and has also enabled the agency to develop standards for IT, procurement, training etc. in preparation for a large-scale rollout in the coming years. 

“Every new technology goes through growing pains, and electric buses are no different,” said James Horrox, policy analyst with Frontier Group and lead author of the report. “But the experiences of King County Metro and other cities that have adopted electric buses show that the hurdles can be overcome — and that the payoff in cleaner air, better health and monetary savings can be massive.” 

The report recommends that cities, transit agencies and school districts transitioning to electric buses learn from those who came before them.  In addition, agencies should ensure that contracts with bus manufacturers have warranties in the event that the vehicles delivered do not perform as promised. And after a successful pilot run, transit agencies and schools should invest in as large a fleet as possible to benefit from economies of scale. 

“The early adopters, like King County Metro, are pioneering electric bus technology, which has the potential to help us clean our air and promote healthier communities,” said Casale. “Their experiences prove that electric buses are ready for prime-time, and that with careful planning and execution, we can have zero-emission bus fleets anywhere in the country.”


Environment Washington Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting air, water and open space by investigating problems, crafting solutions and educating the public.

WashPIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Foundation is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.