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Jay Leno shows us why LA's electric buses are something to marvel at

The Proterra Ecoliner has a fan in denim

One rare treat for Los Angeles drivers stuck in traffic is the elusive Jay Leno car sighting. Like an Angelyne in blue jeans, Jay can be spotted from miles away, usually he's behind the wheel of a goofy looking car built before World War I. But Leno isn’t only interested in 20th century gas guzzlers.

Streetsblog LA just dug up an old episode of Jay Leno’s Garage that features one of Foothill Transit’s fully electric buses. It’s no 1931 Duesenberg, but Leno seems pretty smitten with the Proterra Ecoliner. Perhaps he’ll build his own, complete with custom denim seats.

The video was shot in 2012, just two years after Foothill Transit became the first transit company in the U.S. to add a fast-charge electric bus to their fleet. But the video is relevant today. Metro's goal is to be fully electric by 2030, and it's making movies in that direction.

Just last week, Metro's board voted to make the Orange Line, a "Bus Rapid Transit" route that runs from Chatsworth to North Hollywood, fully electric by 2020. And, today, the agency announced it will buy five new 60-foot electric buses and eight new charging stations for that line with a $4 million federal grant. The new buses will replace CNG buses of the same size that are "now reaching the end of their normal service life."

"The project is expected to demonstrate the durability and reliability of lithium ion battery technology for high ridership transit lines," Metro said in its announcement.

Back to the video, there are lots of stats for gearheads like Leno, but, for the auto illiterate, there’s also plenty of environmentally friendly features to marvel at.

  • The Proterra Ecoliner is 7,000 pounds lighter than the average bus thanks to its fiberglass and balsa wood frame.
  • Their batteries are fast to recharge. An autonomous charging station in the center of the bus route is able to fill the bus’s battery from a 20 percent charge to a 95 percent charge in less than ten minutes. The buses can operate 24/7 on their lines without a need to return to the shop for a charge.
  • Foothill Transit buys renewable energy credits from the Department of Energy, which replaces the electricity the transit company takes off the grid with electricity generated by wind turbines in Kansas.
  • One subtle change from the traditional gas powered bus is the Ecoliner’s back window, providing outside views from a space normally reserved for the air conditioner and fuel tank.

Take it away, Jay: