Foothill Transit's electric Ecoliner bus.
Foothill Transit's electric Ecoliner bus. - 
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BILL RADKE: A new kind of electric bus hits the road today in Southern California. It will carry a full load of passengers over 30 miles, stop for 10 minutes, and fully recharge its batteries. As the inventor points out -- that's a lot less time than it takes to charge your cell phone.

KPCC's Steve Julian reports.

STEVE JULIAN: What makes the new Ecoliner bus unique is its charger. Doran Barnes is the executive director of Foothill Transit, which serves passengers in L.A.'s eastern suburbs.

DORAN BARNES: Electric buses have been around for a long time, but with the advances in lithium ion batteries, we're able to have the battery pack accept a very quick charge, allowing for the in-route charging.

The prototype is twice as expensive as a regular bus -- a little more than a million dollars -- but it'll last 18 years instead of only 12 for a standard bus. Foothill Transit recently cut back on bus service because of declining tax revenue.

But the transit provider got federal stimulus dollars. Barnes says that money couldn't go toward day-to-day operations, so...

BARNES: We really looked to the green economy and the advancements in battery power in terms of the way we use the dollars.

The Ecoliner bus is more efficient because it's built of fiberglass like the other vehicles the body manufacturer makes: yachts.

In Pasadena, Calif., I'm Steve Julian for Marketplace.