Quantcast

Buses Are the Electric Vehicle Everyone Should Be Talking About. Here's Why.

Popular
Proterra is one of several companies manufacturing electric buses in California. Jeffrey D. Allred

By Adrian Martinez

Dean Florez is preparing for what he calls "one of the biggest votes I've ever taken" as an air regulator at an influential agency with national clout.


When he and 13 other members of the California Air Resources Board (the agency responsible for cleaning up California's air and climate pollution) cast their votes on Friday, they won't be weighing in on driverless vehicles or whether rideshare companies like Uber should clean up their act. Florez is hailing a movement laser-focused on one of the more modest vehicles on California's streets: buses.

A reliable fixture rumbling through our towns and cities, buses are the workhorse of our transit system, providing affordable transportation to any and every one, and they may just be the key to the electric vehicle revolution.

Florez is right; this vote is BIG. And here's why.

Go Big

The vote on Friday determines whether California will commit to a 100-percent electric transit bus fleet – and a quick timeline to get more than a thousand electric buses on our roads.The proposed electric bus rule will save California from burning about 100 million gallons of diesel (or 100 million diesel equivalent gallons, if you're talking natural gas buses) in our buses each year when the rule is fully implemented.

This September, California passed a bill that will get the Golden State to 100-percent clean electricity by 2045. That means no coal and no natural gas in an energy grid that supports about 40 million people. Likewise, the proposed new bus rule recognizes that you can't just go for cleaner combustion or reduced emissions. We need zero emissions, and we need it fast.Under the rule, no public transit agency in the state will buy anything but zero-emission buses 11 years from now. California currently has around 132 zero-emission buses running through our cities and rural areas. Soon, we'll have over 14,000 zero-emission buses.

Under the rule, no public transit agency in the state will buy anything but zero-emission buses 11 years from now. California currently has around 132 zero-emission buses running through our cities and rural areas. Soon, we'll have over 14,000 zero-emission buses.

A worker at the BYD plant. BYD is one of the companies making electric buses in California.BYD

This new program in California recognizes that pollution doesn't seep through every community and every set of lungs equally – frontline communities, largely low-income communities of color, bear the brunt of transportation pollution. A map of childhood asthma rates in the state looks like a grouping of hot spots along freight lines and transportation corridors. That's why this rule specifically includes measures to make sure communities long suffering under the mantle of toxic air pollution have tools to push transit agencies to provide the relief they need sooner. Electric buses are coming to disproportionately impacted communities first.

Electric Buses Open the Door to Electric Everything Else

Not only is electrifying California's buses a great step, it could also be the key to getting off our dependency on diesel trucks, a major polluter for communities and a significant part of California's climate emissions. Buses have similar weights and chassis to trucks, and in the past cleaner vehicle technology has flowed from buses to trucks. The technology development for cleaner buses is closely associated with the tech development for zero-emissions trucks, which are responsible for approximately half of California's transportation-related air pollution.

Motiv

That these new, quiet, efficient electric bus fleets will be operated by public transit agencies helps when it comes to figuring out how to operate large electric fleets. Unlike private shuttle services or trucking companies, public transit agencies don't have a profit motive. These public agencies can develop and share their blueprints for operating electric fleets. That could influence and inform fleet operators everywhere from private trucking companies to private shuttle services, school bus fleets, and port terminals. Information sharing is vital if we're going to electrify everything that moves.

Spurred on by terrible air quality in communities across the state and climate change impacts pounding at our door, California is taking a no prisoners approach to state-level climate solutions. Forget D.C. climate denial, California is both making electric buses (BYD, Proterra, Gillig, and Motiv all manufacture in California, supporting jobs), and then buying them and using them too.

California's transit agencies currently spend hundreds of millions of dollars purchasing fossil fuels. We're subsidizing the oil and gas companies that have been fighting clean air regulations, in addition to mounting sophisticated campaigns to deny the harsh impacts of climate change. The best way to fight these companies is to turn off the spigot of money to buy their products. This is the first of its kind regulation to stop having transit agencies subsidize these corporations that place the interests of their shareholders over the interests of our lungs and planet.

The Electric Bus Rule Could Spark a State-to-State Climate Revolution

When people talk about the actions we must take to combat deadly air pollution and climate change, regulations like the electric bus rule are exactly the kind of regulation we desperately need more of. The zero-emission bus rule has been a long time coming because it was hard. Powerful, entrenched lobbyists sought to prop up the incumbent industries. And advocates from across the state fought hard at the local and state level for years to make this happen.

Local advocates say "natural gas is so '90s" as they rally for a fully electric LA Metro bus fleet.Streetsblog LA

Now that California is making this move, this regulation should stand as a template for other states. Every state has the authority to adopt a state-level regulation like this, and as California goes, so goes the rest of the nation. California's moves in the electric bus arena can spark a trend with other states looking for climate and air quality solutions that work. It is going to take uncompromising leaps forward, like 100% clean energy grids and 100% electric bus fleets, to get us where we need to go.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Micromobility is the future of transportation in cities, but cities and investors need to plan ahead to avoid challenges. Jonny Kennaugh / Unsplash

By Carlo Ratti, Ida Auken

On the window of a bike shop in Copenhagen, a sign reads: Your next car is a bike.

Read More Show Less
An American flag waves in the wind at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California on May 17 where a trial against Monsanto took place. Alva and Alberta Pilliod, were awarded more than $2 billion in damages in their lawsuit against Monsanto, though the judge in the case lowered the damage award to $87 million. JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

By Carey Gillam

For the last five years, Chris Stevick has helped his wife Elaine in her battle against a vicious type of cancer that the couple believes was caused by Elaine's repeated use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide around a California property the couple owned. Now the roles are reversed as Elaine must help Chris face his own cancer.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Butterfly habitats have fallen 77 percent in the last 50 years. Pixabay / Pexels

The last 50 years have been brutal for wildlife. Animals have lost their habitats and seen their numbers plummet. Now a new report from a British conservation group warns that habitat destruction and increased pesticide use has on a trajectory for an "insect apocalypse," which will have dire consequences for humans and all life on Earth, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Six of the nineteen wind turbines which were installed on Frodsham Marsh, near the coal-powered Fiddler's Ferry power station, in Helsby, England on Feb. 7, 2017.

Sales of electric cars are surging and the world is generating more and more power from renewable sources, but it is not enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to stop the global climate crisis, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Read More Show Less
"Globally, we're starting to see examples of retailers moving away from plastics and throwaway packaging, but not at the urgency and scale needed to address this crisis." Greenpeace

By Jake Johnson

A Greenpeace report released Tuesday uses a hypothetical "Smart Supermarket" that has done away with environmentally damaging single-use plastics to outline a possible future in which the world's oceans and communities are free of bags, bottles, packaging and other harmful plastic pollutants.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Children are forced to wear masks due to the toxic smoke from peat land fires in Indonesia. Aulia Erlangga / CIFOR

By Irene Banos Ruiz

Pediatricians in New Delhi, India, say children's lungs are no longer pink, but black.

Our warming planet is already impacting the health of the world's children and will shape the future of an entire generation if we fail to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6°F), the 2019 Lancet Countdown Report on health and climate change shows.

Read More Show Less
Private homes surround a 20 inch gas liquids pipeline which is part of the Mariner East II project on Oct. 5, 2017 in Marchwood, Penn. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

The FBI is looking into how the state of Pennsylvania granted permits for a controversial natural gas pipeline as part of a corruption investigation, the AP reports.

Read More Show Less
Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles. Carolina Wild Ones / Facebook

Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less