Metro Transit is exploring the idea of adding buses powered solely by electricity to its fleet, and next week the public will have a chance to try them out.

The agency has invited several manufacturers to bring their buses to town for some test drives.

New Flyer, which has plants in St. Cloud and Crookston, will bring its Xcelsior model to the Twin Cities for demonstration runs on Tuesday and Wednesday. Buses may be showcased on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis and along W. 7th Street in St. Paul, two corridors where electric buses could be deployed in the future.

Manufacturers Proterra and Build Your Dreams (BYD) will have opportunities to show off their buses in May.

"It's an emerging technology that might have a place in our transit system," said Rob Milleson, director of bus maintenance for Metro Transit. "We are excited to touch and feel and see how they operate."

The push to add electric buses comes as Metro Transit looks for ways to cut fuel costs and decrease exhaust emissions.

In 2002, the agency debuted hybrid buses in 2002, which now constitute 15 percent of its fleet. Metro Transit currently has 132 hybrids and plans to add five more this year, Milleson said.

Along with the demonstrations, transit officials say they still have to conduct a feasibility study to determine what routes electric buses would work best on, as well as maintenance implications, operational costs and what infrastructure would be needed — such as charging stations.

Officials will be able to take rides from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, which happens to be Earth Day. At other times on Tuesday and Wednesday, buses will be deployed on selected routes allowing the public to hop on. Specifics on those routes and times have not been finalized.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768