The NexGen Electric Trolley Bus: How does it work?

The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority is testing four prototypes of a new $1.4 million dual mode electric trolley bus that could replace problem-plagued trolleys in use since 1998. RTA runs seven trolley routes on 124 miles of overhead wire in Montgomery County.

ARTICLE: New battery key to trolley decision

GALLERY: Dayton public transit through the years

Some facts about the trolleys

Passenger trips: 2.5 million annually

NexGen manufacturing partnership

  • Vossloh Kiepe Inc. of Germany: electrification
  • Gillig of California: bus body and chassis
  • Complete Coach Works of California: electrification installation


The cost of RTA fleet

  • NexGen electric trolley prototype: $1.4 million
  • NexGen electric trolley production version: $1 million
  • ETI electric trolley (current fleet): $550,000 in 1994
  • Hybrid diesel/electric bus: $600,000
  • Regular diesel: $440,000


Bus Life Expectancy

  • NexGen electric trolley: 18-20 years, 800,000 miles
  • Diesel & Hybrid diesel/electric bus: 12 years, 500,000 miles


The NexGen Bus

  • 34,000 pounds
  • 12 feet tall with poles down, 18 feet with poles up
  • 40 feet long with 38 seats
  • AC Drive propulsion technology


What are the important parts of the trolleys?

Hover over points for an image and information about that part of the trolley.

What does it look like when it's moving?

  • View from the top

    Greater Dayton RTA staff mounted a GoPro camera on the roof of the NexGen electric trolley bus and captured the roller-coaster feel of the bus as its trolley poles travel along the overhead wire, rounding bends and flashing sparks. The sparking is normal for a trolleybus. It is caused by a gap created by wear or moisture, frost, ice and oxidation on the trolley wire.

  • Changing poles with a button push

    The NexGen trolleys offer a key improvement over the current ETI electric trolleybuses. The driver can deploy and rack the poles from a button inside the bus. The video shows the poles racking themselves. The old trolleys require the driver to get out and pull the poles down and put them up by hand.

  • What does the driver see?

    Here is windshield view of the NexGen trolley as it travels down the road in the rain, driven by Greater Dayton RTA bus operator Tom Bowman.

  • What do the onlookers see?

    With Greater Dayton RTA bus operator Tom Bowman at the wheel the NexGen trolley rounds the bend at Southmoor Circle in Kettering, the end of the trolley line on Route 5.

  • Easier access

    Greater Dayton RTA bus operator Tom Bowman demonstrates the operation of the wheelchair ramp on the NexGen bus. This is a far different experience for riders in wheelchairs when compared to the ETI trolley’s antiquated and frequently malfunctioning wheelchair ramps.

Sources: Greater Dayton RTA and Vossloh Kiepe Inc. / Reporting: Lynn Hulsey / Photos and videos by Lisa Powell, except battery photo and GoPro video provided by Greater Dayton RTA