Auto Tech

Van Hool electric bus could make commutes greener

Belgian bus maker Van Hool uses Proterra's heavy-duty electric drivetrain for a new model of passenger bus mainly carrying tech workers.

Van Hool
Google Bus

Commuter tech buses could soon run more quietly and cleanly on electric power.

James Martin/CNET

Google and other tech companies faced criticism that their contracted commuter buses created skyrocketing property costs in San Francisco. The companies pointed out that the buses actually relieve traffic and pollution, and soon they can add zero emissions and quiet running to their defense. Van Hool, the Belgian company that provides many of the buses used by tech companies, announced a new all-electric model, the CX45E.

The CX45E comes from a partnership between Van Hool and Proterra, the latter a California company that has developed a heavy-duty electric drivetrain for its own line of buses.

Currently, Van Hool's CX45 model buses, which carry 56 passengers, use diesel engines from Cummins. These buses are used for charter operations around the US, and carry many tech workers between San Francisco and offices in the Bay Area. The buses have been a point of contention among activists, as they make it easier for employees to live an hour or more away from their places of work. 

Electric versions of these buses would not relieve pressure on the San Francisco housing market, but they would run more quietly than their diesel counterparts and significantly reduce pollution with zero tail pipe emissions. 

Although specific details of the CX45E model are unavailable at the time of this announcement, Proterra previously demonstrated that its own bus, using its electric drivetrain, could travel almost 1,100 miles on a single charge

Along with the CX45E, which enters the market in 2019, Van Hool said it would also produce a smaller electric bus, the CX35E, with production coming later. 

Van Hool has previously made city buses with electric drivetrains, but the CX45E is the first electric model designed for longer range travel.