The City of Seneca can boast it is the first city in the country with an all-electric, fare-free bus system. The five electric buses, built by a South Carolina manufacturer, replaced the city’s diesel buses that were polluting the air and expensive to fuel. Each electric bus runs on six large lithium batteries and has a lifespan of 12 years and 500,000 miles.

To purchase the buses, city officials applied for multiple grants. The Federal Transit Authority awarded the city $4.1 million to replace its old fleet and provided additional funds for charging stations and shelters. Seneca also received funds from the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s vehicle acquisition program and an FTA Livable Communities grant.

By switching to an all-electric system, the city is saving $45,000 in diesel costs and even more in fleet maintenance. The project has also eliminated the emission of 640 tons of greenhouse gases annually. Beyond the financial and environmental benefits, the key goal remains serving the public safely and efficiently.

Residents are embracing the new system. They like how quiet the ride is and are patient when the bus needs to stop momentarily to recharge. During the last few years, the city has seen double-digit increases in ridership. The 23 permanent jobs that the project created are another plus. Officials are now looking to expand those benefits, as well as bus routes, to riders across Oconee County.

Seneca officials have received a great deal of attention for their hard work, even being honored at the White House for their innovation. Despite such lofty praise, they prefer the accolades they receive closer to home and the gratitude of the city’s many bus riders.

Contact Greg Dietterick at or 864.888.0880.