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Plugged in: MTA debuts new electric bus charging hub at Queens depot

MTA electric buses parked at depot
The MTA expects to have 60 new electric buses running on routes in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island by year’s end.
Photo by Ben Brachfeld

The MTA unveiled on Tuesday 17 newly installed overhead electric chargers at a Queens bus depot to power up 60 all-electric buses set to service routes in Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island by year’s end.

The “pantograph” chargers at the Grand Avenue Bus Depot in Maspeth automatically connect to the top of buses, charging overnight from zero to 100% in six hours, with a range of up to 95 miles on a full charge.

With 15 articulated electric buses already on the road since 2019, the move — approved back in 2021 — increases the MTA’s electric bus fleet fivefold — though they still represent a small sliver of the 5,800 buses transporting New Yorkers around the five boroughs.

The buses charge via a “pantograph” at the Grand Avenue depot that automatically connects to the top of the bus.Photo by Ben Brachfeld
The pantograph connects directly to the bus from overhead.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

The agency plans to have its entire bus fleet electrified by 2040, meaning it will need to invest substantially in charging infrastructure over the next 16 years. Aside from the 17 at Grand Avenue Depot, another 46 pantographs are being installed at Herkimer Depot in East New York, Brooklyn and Charleston Depot on the south shore of Staten Island — while a curbside fast-charger will power up buses in an hour at the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza bus hub.

“We have been in the business since 1904 of being the greenest game in town of moving New Yorkers,” said Richard Davey, the head of MTA New York City Transit, in reference to the year of the subway’s founding. “Well, we’re gonna become even greener as a result of this investment.”

A console in the bus operator’s cabin shows the bus’s charge level.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

The chargers were funded with $70 million in federal money, including $20 million from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The MTA’s current capital plan includes $1.1 billion to purchase 500 electric buses, which are slated to go into service by 2027. As recently as this year, the MTA was still purchasing diesel buses but by 2029, all new bus deliveries are expected to be electric.

Besides the Grand Avenue chargers, the agency also has 16 overhead chargers at the Michael J. Quill Depot in Midtown Manhattan, which service articulated electric Select Buses on the M14 and M60 routes.

An all-electric bus at the Grand Avenue depot in Queens on May 14, 2024.Photo by Ben Brachfeld
The MTA has installed 17 overhead electric chargers at the Grand Avenue depot and has plans for hundreds more.Photo by Ben Brachfeld

The first two buses from the order were on display at the Grand Avenue Depot on Tuesday, situated under the grid-connected, 566-kilowatt chargers installed through a partnership by the MTA, the New York Power Authority and Con Edison. Those buses are undergoing final testing before hitting the road.

The MTA expects the delivery of 470 more electric buses starting in 2027, with an accompanying $188 million investment in 200 more overhead chargers at Grand Avenue and four other depots.