An article published by the World Economic Forum says the use of E-buses is growing world-wide. Electric buses produce significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than diesel, diesel-hybrid and natural gas-powered buses. In the US alone, replacing all the diesel-powered transit buses with electric buses could eliminate more than 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
Globally, Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that just under 60% of municipal buses around the world will be electric by 2030 – and that electric vehicles of all types will displace demand for 17.6 million barrels of oil per day by 2040.
That’s why some cities are beginning to mandate the adoption of electric buses. The vast majority of electric buses in the world are in China – which has more than 400,000 electric buses, about 99% of the world’s total – but change is coming to the rest of the world, too.
In Europe, binding EU rules set minimum national procurement targets for new clean buses and trucks for 2025 and 2030. In the US, California has led the shift toward the electrification of bus fleets, and California agencies like Antelope Valley Transit Authority are paving the way by electrifying their entire fleet without waiting until the 2029 deadline. Fifteen states and Washington, D.C., announced this summer that they will be following California’s lead.
Though the environmental benefits are clear, some obstacles remain. For one, though the long-term costs of operating and maintaining electric buses are lower than for diesel buses, the initial cost of purchasing an electric bus is higher. Transportation providers also need to have the necessary charging infrastructure in place.
The hurdles go beyond hardware, however. It’s more challenging to schedule electric buses because they need to stop more frequently to recharge than diesel buses can drive before refilling the gas tank.
For non-electric fleets, the optimization algorithms behind the scenes already take into account complicated variables like the number of vehicles and drivers available and the frequency and length of the breaks that drivers need to take throughout the day.
With electric buses, the complications mount, because the algorithms need to take into account a lot more variables, such as when buses need to be charged, where they should charge, how long it will take, and how to schedule trips around those charging times. These are complex calculations, making the use of transportation-scheduling technology all the more critical.
It’s important to remember that while individuals switching to electric cars for personal use may reduce their own carbon footprint, those cars require no less road space or parking infrastructure than their gas-powered counterparts. For electric vehicles to make as much of a difference as possible, it’s important to prioritize electrifying those that carry the most people. The transition to electric bus fleets – initially through the use of mixed fleets, in which only some buses are electric, and eventually through all-electric fleets – is capable of reducing both emissions and congestion.
Now is the time to shape more livable cities, where we can breathe clean air and move freely. Now is the time to build on the unintended environmental side effect of pandemic lockdowns, keeping emissions and congestion down by limiting incentives and land use allocation that serve cars – and instead focusing on the multiple modes of mobility that serve people.
Amos Haggiag, CEO and co-founder, Optibus