Steve Boxall Geeks Out About Compass Transportation’s Electric Buses

Sep 6, 2019
Photographer Spotlight

It’s a joy to speak with people who are passionate about commissioned projects. Their attitude is infectious to the point where you can feel their excitement bursting out of an email.

Steve and friends

Steve Boxall, a United Kingdom native who makes his bones in the US of A, loves electric vehicles. He recently completed a shoot for EV manufacturer Compass Transportation, whose parent company, TransDev, has commissioned Steve for multiple projects. Needless to say, Steve was pretty excited about this specific opportunity.

A fleet of EVs

What makes me geek out about these buses? It’s definitely the fact that they are electric. I’m an optimist and I think we can solve society’s problems. Hopefully many other people agree that environmentally-conscious infrastructure is a huge step towards where we need to be as a society.

Compass Transportation is based in the San Francisco area, which is where these buses run. What stood out to Steve more than anything was the sheer size of the vehicles.

I didn't know that zero-emission buses on this scale even existed. When I heard that I was to be photographing them, I was expecting something on a smaller scale. I have previously photographed autonomous electric buses and they were roughly the size of a car, so I imagined something like that. The reality was that these were normal coach buses, just electric. To discover that electric double decker buses exist, that they have incredible range, and [that they] are already in use is very exciting and restores my faith in humanity with every mile they drive.

Most of the shots from the assignment feature the bus’s amenities, such as the multiple decks, comfy seats, and desk space for people who need to get work done during their commute. Even though it costs a pretty penny (average going rate: $750,000) to produce these buses, Compass didn't spare any expense when it came to the look of the vehicle.  

The aesthetics of the bus are very nice. I didn't notice any ‘cheapening’ due to overuse of lightweight materials. It felt just like a luxury coach.

Uhh who are you Facebook chatting with? Who is she, hmm?

These buses are modern, comfortable, and functional. They even have electrical outlets at every seat, as well as a bathroom [in the back].

He better not be Facebook chatting with anyone I swear to god...

The interior shots were to show the cabin functionality and the upper and lower decks, so we shot a model on the staircase to emphasize the fact that you can ride upstairs. Sounds simple, but there were quite a few logistical steps we needed to take to get the lighting right in the space allowed.

Of course, what differentiates these buses from their diesel-dependent cousins is the way they refuel, a fairly straightforward process which Steve nonetheless put a lot of thought into the framing.  

Easy as charging your phone

It’s a simple as plugging it in. There's really nothing more to it than that. For those shots, I wanted to show an operator connecting the bus to the charging station with a very clean background and lots of natural colors to emphasize the eco-friendliness of the process.

These buses are so eco-friendly, in fact, that it’s sometimes difficult to know if they’re actually on. Steve and the crew found this out during the shoot itself.

At one point while we were shooting the interior shots we needed to turn on the 120v outlets, but our technician had left the set temporarily. No one knew how to “start” the bus (or whatever you call it when you “turn on” an EV), so things ground to a halt for a few minutes while we waited for the technician to return.

I'm just gonna assume this is the technician

It turned out the bus was on the whole time. We just needed to activate the outlets. We couldn’t tell as, well, it’s silent.

This is not what you would categorize as a frustrating setback, more of a nice reminder of the kind of vehicle Steve and company were sitting in and shooting. There are about 300 electric passenger buses operating in the U.S. and many more in use around the world. Although electric buses are more expensive to make than diesel buses, their running costs are much lower. In both an economical and, more importantly, an environmental sense, EVs are the best long-term solution when it comes to the future of public transporation. 

There is something so cool about the silence that comes with electric vehicles. There’s no vibration, no odors, and a totally smooth ride as there are no gears to shift. Plus, it feels good to be on mass transit with zero carbon footprint.

Gotta end this story with a smiling face

I’d love to see these vehicles reducing pollution and lowering carbon footprints in every city very soon. It’ll boil down to the cost of running a fleet of EVs, but I am sure they are the way forward.


TransDev Marketing Manager: Christopher Aiello

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