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USA: Advancing Sustainable Mobility. A Review of Zero-Emission Transit Buses

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Zero-emission transit buses Battery-electric buses Fuel cell electric buses Public transportation Sustainable mobility

This comprehensive review examines the current landscape of zero-emission transit buses, as elucidated in Calstart’s recent report. The analysis presents a factual overview of trends and challenges pertinent to eco-friendly public transportation, encompassing variations in adoption rates and regional dynamics. Notable observations include the substantial governmental funding directed towards incentivizing the transition, juxtaposed with logistical constraints encountered by manufacturers. Regional data, including fleet distributions and governmental initiatives, offer valuable insights into the broader sustainability movement. Calstart’s recommendations for procurement optimization underscore the imperative of efficient industry practices. Through a data-centric lens, it becomes evident that the integration of zero-emission fleets represents a strategic response to emissions mitigation and urban mobility enhancement.

Electric Buses In America

Zero-Emission Transit Buses Landscape in 2023

  • In the United States in 2023, more than 6, 100 brand-new, full-size zero-emission transit buses were on the road, delivered, on order, or supported, which is a 12 % increase over the past year, according to a Feb. 28 report from Calstart, a national fresh transportation advocacy group.
  • According to Calstart, the adoption rate for battery-electric buses decreased between 2022 and 2022, while fuel cell electric buses increased by more than 75 % as interest in that technology increased.
  • In public transportation, private fleets, airports, and universities, the number of small zero-emission buses, which are shorter than 30 feet, increased 15 % year over year.

Governmental Incentives and Industry Challenges in public transportation

The Federal Transit Administration gave practically $1.7 billion in grants in 2023 to encourage the adoption of lower- and zero-emission buses in 46 states and territories. Bus manufacturers struggled to keep up with orders as a result of inflation, wage increases, production issues, and economic difficulties.

The largest fleets of zero-emission buses are located in California, New York, Florida, and Texas, according to Calstart, and only three states, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia, lack ZEBs.

The fleets of fuel cell electrical buses in California, Delaware, Illinois, and Nevada increased. In order to provide longer range and improved energy recovery, this technology uses hydrogen fuel cells to power electrical motors and recharge the vehicle’s batteries. According to the Calstart report,” It is anticipated that interest in FCEBs will continue to grow,” specifically as transit fleets transition from pilot projects to full-scale replacement of their internal combustion engine fleets.

Calstart advises that whenever feasible, transit agencies should use nationwide procurement contracts. According to the report,” The use of provincial contracts can quicken the process of purchasing ZEBs, which can get more of these vehicles in service more quickly.”

With 545 full-size zero emission buses in its fleet as of September 2023, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is ahead of the best five transit authorities in this regard. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Miami-Dade Transit, and Santa Monica, California’s Big Blue Bus service are among the various top five transit authorities.

Through its Zero Emission Transit Fund program, the French government supports the transition to zero-emission transit buses in Canada. The program will begin in 2021 and will invest 2.75 billion dollars over the course of five years to pay for the purchase of 5, 000 zero-emission buses as well as for charging and upgrading the infrastructure and facilities.

According to Mike Hynes, manager of Calstart‘s National Transit Bus Program,” The United States and Canada continue to see good growth in the overall number of ZEBs.” The findings of the report demonstrate that transit agencies continue to prioritize zero-emission transportation in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and safeguard public health.

The review emphasizes the substantial growth in zero-emission transit buses across the United States, with over 6,100 buses either operational, delivered, on order, or supported in 2023. Notable trends include a surge in fuel cell electric buses and government funding to incentivize adoption. Regional dynamics, such as California, New York, Florida, and Texas leading in deployment, offer valuable insights. Calstart’s recommendation for nationwide procurement contracts highlights the need for efficient industry practices. Additionally, international efforts, like France’s Zero Emission Transit Fund program in Canada, demonstrate a global commitment to sustainability. Overall, the review underscores the strategic importance of zero-emission buses in emissions mitigation and urban mobility while stressing the necessity for continued governmental support, optimized procurement, and technological innovation

Leo Portal

Leo is an expert in the field of smart city research and an overall tech-enthusiast with an emphasis on smart energy, IOT, smart homes and governance. After a master degree in international administration at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and a master in public management at Fudan University in China, he pursued research studies in the field of smart cities at the European University Institute. This led him to publish multiple articles on smart cities. Among them “Using Smart People to Build Smarter: How Smart Cities Attract and Retain Highly Skilled Workers to Drive Innovation (Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland)” published in the Smart Cities and Regional Development Journal (SCRD) and “Establishing Participative Smart Cities: Theory and Practice”, also published in the SCRD Journal. He regularly audits and advises municipalities and regional governments on their smart city strategies. He is currently writing a chapter for Springer on smart mobility in French smart cities.

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