TORRANCE : 25-Seat Electric Bus Joins Public Transit Fleet

Torrance added a 25-seat electric bus Monday to its fleet, taking a step toward clean air transit while helping a defense contractor enter the commercial market.

The 29-foot bus, described as the country’s largest battery-powered, mass-transit vehicle to operate on major thoroughfares, was rolled out at Hughes Aircraft Co. in Torrance, which builds it with Specialty Vehicle Manufacturing Co. in Downey.

The power system for the ZEST bus--for Zero Emissions Surface Transit--is based on electronics Hughes developed for military jet radar.

“This is one of the first and best real-live examples of defense conversion,” Rep. Jane Harman (D-Marina del Rey), said at the unveiling. The bus, designed and built over the past year, shows “these conversion projects don’t need to be multi-decade affairs,” she added.

The bus is scheduled to begin regular service in two weeks. It will have a range of 75 miles on a charge of eight to 10 hours, and a battery change takes only five minutes. For the first month, rides will be free.


Torrance bought the vehicle with $265,000 in county Proposition C transportation money and $35,000 in Proposition A funds. The city of Los Angeles is negotiating to buy similar buses for Los Angeles International Airport.