A short battery range has been a big factor in the slow sales of many electric vehicles. But there’s one form of transport where that isn’t really an issue: buses. Most municipal routes in the U.S.and major cities worldwide are less than 20 miles, making EVs a viable–perhaps even preferable–alternative.
Electric buses reduce noise and air and land pollution and do the job better. They are often adopted regardless of payback because the local government wishes to be seen to be green. Passengers note improved quietness and hill climbing ability. Arnhem in the Netherlands saw use of local buses increase by 17% when electric versions were introduced.
Electric buses cost up to 50% more per vehicle and need charging infrastructure but they are cost effective. Fuel is cheaper, maintenance is less and life is longer. So Why Electric Buses? Read on to find out why they are the better choice and very likely to be the mode of mass transit in future cities worldwide.
Buses and Large Vehicles Make Up a Majority of Emissions
It’s important to realize that large vehicles are a major factor of everyday life, along with cars that consumers drive to work, to school, to the grocery, and much more. But have you thought about what other vehicles you see every day? Garbage trucks, commercial trucks, and most importantly, buses. People depend on bigger vehicles and couldn’t imagine their lives without them. School buses, charter buses, transit buses, and more help transport people and products every day.
Bigger vehicles may only make up about 4% of America’s vehicles on the road, but they account for 26% of American fuel use and 29% of vehicle CO2 emissions. On top of that, buses and other heavy vehicles can consume up to 14,000 gallons a year. It makes sense when you consider the size of them. Imagine the difference that could be made if cities just electrified their buses.
“If we electrified all our buses, trucks, and taxis, we could get rid of two-thirds of vehicle pollution,” says Brendan Riley, President of GreenPower Motor Company Inc. .“Although they only make up about 10% of vehicles on the road, they contribute to 67% of all the pollution.” In fact, it’s expected that one-third of new transit buses will be electric by 2020, with hopes that half will be electric by 2025, and then 100% of fleet purchases to be all-electric by 2030.
Can Improve the Environment and Public Health
The obvious reason why electric buses are ideal is to help protect the environment. In urban settings specifically, buses are constantly in motion and release a significant amount of emissions. An electric bus can emit 4-6x fewer greenhouse gases than a gasoline-powered bus.
Vehicle emissions not only harm the environment, but disproportionately affect people living in inner cities. Internal combustion engines release a long list of air pollutants by first releasing primary pollutants directly into the atmosphere, and then secondary pollution from those emissions reacting with elements in the atmosphere. More than 150 million people in the U.S. currently live in cities with air quality that doesn’t meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
The American Lung Association (AMA) conducted a study showing that gasoline-powered vehicle health costs calculated to around $11.82 per gallon, with climate impacts adding another $6.55 per gallon, equaling to a total of $24 billion in health costs and $13 billion in climate costs. Switching to electric buses alone could dramatically improve air quality, health, and health costs among citizens while equally helping combat environmental concerns.
The first market to go 100 percent electric
Matt Horton sells buses to transit agencies around the world, so he’s pretty well versed in what people don’t like about the product. For him, a key pain point is perception. “A lot of what people don’t like about buses is due to the diesel engine at their heart,” says Horton. “Buses are seen as noisy and polluting.”
Horton, the chief commercial officer for Proterra, a U.S.-based manufacturer of electric buses, doesn’t worry about that problem anymore. With the rise of Tesla, increasing concerns over urban pollution, and a budding, if still small, EV marketplace, 100 percent electric buses are not just a reality, but, as Horton sees it, are ready to take over the market.
“We believe buses will be the first market to go 100 percent electric,” he says. For air quality reasons, many operators have moved away from diesel in favor of either diesel hybrid or natural gas. Experts claim that electric makes more sense in the long-term because its costs are only likely to fall, while the price of fossil fuels is uncertain.
“We believe transportation will change dramatically over the next 10 years, and think electric buses will be a viable, critical piece of the transportation industry,” Riley says. “EVs will be seen as the workhorses. Think how this can impact other city fleets, from maintenance crews to garbage trucks.”
Gigantic Savings vs Conventional Diesel Powered Buses
Electric buses cost upward of $700,000, significantly more than their diesel peers, but Horton says the fuel savings and lower maintenance costs make them cheaper long-term investments. Over its lifetime, an electric bus could save $400,000 in fuel expenses and $125,000 in averted maintenance costs, according to figures from bus manufacturer New Flyer that were cited in the report.
Electric buses could provide fuel and maintenance savings of up to $50,000 a year over fossil fuel powered buses, resulting in a five year payback period, according to estimates from another bus manufacturer, Proterra, cited in the report. Electric buses have significantly fewer parts than fossil fuel buses. They do not have an exhaust system, their braking systems last longer, and they do not require oil changes. In addition, if a bus is equipped with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capabilities, it could potentially generate up to $6,000 a year in V2G revenues, depending on a utility’s rates.
“We believe transportation will change dramatically over the next 10 years, and think electric buses will be a viable, critical piece of the transportation industry,” he says. “EVs will be seen as the workhorses. Think how this can impact other city fleets, from maintenance crews to garbage trucks.”
Economically Smarter Operating Costs
Batteries are getting cheaper, and like stated above, they last longer and the maintenance costs are drastically better. Just like consumer electric cars, electric buses are efficient, fast, and only use 20% of the raw energy of a diesel bus.
While a diesel bus can only get around 3.9 MPG, an electric bus can reach 21 MPGe, or the miles per gallon equivalent. Plus, it’s easier and cheaper to take care of an electric vehicle that doesn’t require fluids, filters and moving parts like a traditional diesel bus. The total cost to own and operate an electric bus over its lifetime is 35% lower than traditional buses, and with battery and other costs decreasing as well, there’ll be no excuse not to implement electric buses in the next few years.
- Are Electric Buses The Future Of Mass Transit – https://www.fastcompany.com/3038018/are-electric-buses-the-future-of-mass-transit
- Gigantic Savings vs Conventional Diesel Powered Buses – https://www.publicpower.org/periodical/article/electric-buses-mass-transit-seen-cost-effective
- Economically Smarter Operating Costs – https://gogocharters.com/blog/electric-buses-future-transportation/