Minnesota Cities Went All-In for Electric Transit, But the Buses Couldn’t Handle the Cold

December 31, 2023

Originally published by The Western Journal. Story by Michael Schwarz.

Virtue-signaling liberalism is fighting another losing battle with reality.

On Wednesday, the Minnesota-focused news outlet MinnPost reported that several of the state’s largest cities have encountered significant obstacles in their quest to achieve planet-friendly public transit.

Frigid temperatures and a myriad of other problems have plagued Duluth and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul during their transition to zero-emission buses. In subzero conditions — a staple of Minnesota winters — electric buses operate at only a fraction of their supposed 150-mile capacity.

Drew Kerr, spokesman for Twin Cities Metro Transit, explained that charged buses travel far shorter distances than manufacturers advertised.

“Using garage chargers alone, electric buses can remain in service for 70 to 75 miles before needing to return to the garage; with on-route chargers, electric buses were scheduled to be in service for up to 90 miles before returning to the garage,” Kerr said.

Duluth spokesman Dave Clark noted that the city has experienced significant problems with charging stations.

“They would fail. They would not perform. They would experience malfunctions, glitches. They were extremely problematic right out of the gate,” Clark said.

Furthermore, Duluth’s electric bus fleet has provided inadequate comfort by failing to keep riders warm in winter.

Meanwhile, the Twin Cities’ fleet has proven comparatively unreliable. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, electric buses have broken down at twice the rate of traditional diesel-powered buses.

All of this leaves the general impression that electric buses lack efficiency and do not meet riders’ needs.

The most significant aspect of this story, however — or at least the one that makes it relevant to readers outside of Minnesota — involves the perennial unholy alliance between government and business.

In 2021, Metro Transit received a federal grant to purchase a fleet of electric buses from the California-based manufacturer Proterra. Duluth received a similar grant in 2015.

Earlier this year, Proterra filed for bankruptcy despite a public endorsement from President Joe Biden as recently as March 2022.

Now, in addition to malfunctioning or inadequate buses, the Minnesota cities have no immediate vendor.

If this story sounds familiar, it is because affluent Teton County, Wyoming, had a similar experience with Proterra. That cold-weather county’s entire electric bus fleet failed, resulting in continued reliance on its diesel fleet.

Of course, Teton County’s per-household wealth ranks first in the nation. Predictably, Biden won Teton County by nearly 40 points in the 2020 election.

Biden also received Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes, winning both Hennepin and St. Louis counties, home to the Twin Cities and Duluth, respectively.

In sum, urban Minnesotans support Democrats, so it stands to reason that they would invest in electric buses.

Furthermore, it makes no difference that the buses often fail to run properly and do not suit riders’ needs. Electric vehicles have nothing to do with the people who ride in them.

After all, affluent liberals — backed by grant-issuing government busybodies — have a planet to save. They might suffer mildly troubled consciences, for instance, over child labor and other mining practices used to procure cobalt for EV batteries in central Africa’s Democratic Republic of Congo, but they have good intentions.

And good intentions shield liberals against all reality, including frigid winter temperatures.