Electric buses save cities’ air quality– and money

by Kristoffer Tigue, InsideClimate News

In the coastal city of Gulfport, Mississippi, the state’s first fully-electric bus will soon be cruising through the city’s downtown streets.

The same goes for Portland, Maine—it just received a grant to buy that state’s first two e-buses, which are set to roll out in 2021. And Wichita expects to have Kansas’ first operating electric bus picking up passengers as early as this month after receiving a federal grant.

As cities and states across the country set ambitious mid-century climate change goals for the first time and as prices for lithium-ion batteries plummet, a growing number of transit agencies are stepping up efforts to replace dirtier diesel buses with electric ones.

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In shift to electric bus, it’s China ahead of U.S. 421,000 to 300

by Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg

Plodding down DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn is a bus moving under the power of an eerily quiet motor. It looks newer than most buses on the route, with a vivid digital display facing the driver and doors that part with a futuristic pneumatic swoosh. Commuters trundling aboard at rush hour don’t seem to realize this is one of the few electric buses—300 last year, to be exact—in America.

In China, an electric bus wouldn’t be unusual at all. Out of almost 425,000 e-buses worldwide at the end of last year, some 421,000 were in China. The global e-bus fleet grew about 32% in 2018, according to a BloombergNEF report released Wednesday, with the vast majority hitting the road in China. Europe had only 2,250 electric buses, by BNEF’s count.

China’s municipal e-bus fleet is projected to rise to more than 600,000 by 2025, according to BNEF, at a time when the U.S. is expected to have nearly 5,000. “There’s no industrial policy in the U.S. for e-buses,” said Nick Albanese, a New York-based analyst at BNEF. “So unless the U.S. manages to become a big exporter of e-buses, China will continue to stand apart.”

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Electric buses offer massive climate savings

Electric buses can reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption more quickly than cars. Far more quickly! Not only is as bus obviously much bigger than a car, it spends the better part of the day on the move, while cars are parked 95% of the time. Whereas the average passenger car travels between 10-12,000 miles per year, the average transit bus covers three times that distance, logging over 35,000 miles in a normal year of operation. Buses also often run on dirty diesel fuel, making the switch to electric even more of a win-win.

Recognizing the enormous environmental, public health and economic benefits of switching buses to clean, all-electric technology, California recently passed regulations that will require all buses to be electric by 2040. The last diesel bus in the State will be sold no later than 2030, and by 2040 all transit buses in the State will be 100% electric.

And that’s big news!

In case you think the technology is not there, or that the technical challenges will be too great, we just need to look to the Chinese city of Shenzen, which is the gateway from Hong Kong to mainland China, and has a population of over 12 million. Facing growing health care costs and economic disruption from their high levels of pollution, the City government committed in 2009 to transitioning their bus fleet from diesel to electric, and recently completed the task. How many new electric buses is that? Over 16,000!

The good news for those of us living in Sonoma County, is that we have also begun the transition to electric buses.  In fact, the first one is already here, and you can ride it for free!

So hop onto the (free) 24 bus in Sebastopol if you’re close by or contact your local transit authority to tell them to go electric now!


Metro agrees to buy 95 electric buses, in the first step toward an emissions-free fleet

by Laura J. Nelson and Emily Alpert Reyes, LA Times

In the first step toward a new goal of eliminating tailpipe emissions by 2030, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed Thursday to spend more than $138 million to buy 95 electric buses that will run on two Los Angeles County busways.

The purchases from New Flyer of America Inc. and BYD are among the largest of any U.S. transit agency, and will establish Metro as a proving ground for a new technology that is still relatively untested.

Environmental advocates cheered Metro’s investment as a way to lead the nation in adopting a new technology that could help reduce transportation emissions and create local jobs.

When the electric buses begin running, they will represent less than 5% of Metro’s fleet, but will at least double the number of electric buses in use in California.

“As the federal government moves backward, here in Los Angeles, we are moving forward,” said Los Angeles City Councilman and Metro director Mike Bonin at a downtown rally before the vote. “They are moving us into a dark past. We are moving into a bright future.”
Behind him, advocates from the Sierra Club and several labor unions gathered, holding signs and chanting, “Natural gas is in the past — electric buses, here to last.”

Though the technology has evolved in recent years, battery-powered buses still can’t travel as far as their natural gas-powered counterparts, which can run 400 miles on a tank. In a recent report, Metro employees said that electric buses as they exist today pose “significant risks to service and operation.”

To address technology questions and concerns about how far the vehicles can travel, Metro’s first electric buses will only run along the Orange Line busway in the San Fernando Valley and in the 29-mile Silver Line carpool lane along the Harbor and San Bernardino freeways. Both routes will have chargers where buses can stop if their batteries run low.
The board unanimously approved a $66-million budget to electrify the Silver Line, including buying 60 electric buses from BYD, installing chargers along the route, and updating wiring to handle higher wattages. The line should be finished by 2021, officials said.

Metro directors also voted to establish a budget of $72 million for replacing the Orange Line’s buses. That includes $51 million for 35 electric buses from New Flyer, and $7.8 million for charging stations at both ends of the line. The route should be fully electric by 2020, officials said.

The New Flyer contract, which was approved 7 to 3 after a lengthy discussion over which company should be awarded the business, is contingent on New Flyer reaching a binding agreement for local hiring. Three board members pushed to give the contract to BYD instead, arguing that it was important to support local jobs at its Lancaster facility.

Metro also awarded a $26.5-million contract to Cummins Westport to build and deliver a new type of natural gas engine known as “near zero.” Gas advocates have said the engines will provide more immediate air-quality benefits than gradually transitioning to zero-emission technology.