In 2020, BlastPoint first dug into 5 Cities Leading the Battery-Powered Bus Revolution. Two years later, we’re checking in. We’ll see where they were, and find out where they are now. See if these same cities are still revolutionizing their battery-electric public bus fleet in this week’s update.
Cities across the world are realizing the impacts of battery powered electric buses. On an environmental level, replacing one diesel bus with an electric one, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 230,000+ pounds per year. As cities set clean energy goals, this transition will not only help them reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but will improve the health of its residents as well.
The benefits of transitioning bus fleets can be seen by the increase of global market demand. According to the Global Electric Bus Markets Report, in 2020, 74.157 thousand units were purchased. This year, in 2022, demand increased over 51% at 112.041 thousand units. In 2031, they forecast the number to increase over 500% at 448.920 thousand units!
Now that we know demand on a global scale is large, let’s look into where these 5 Cities Leading the Battery-Powered Bus Revolution have come since 2020.
1. Denver, CO
As of 2020, Denver, Colorado’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) had one of the largest electric bus fleets in the country. At that time, 36 electric buses and shuttles traveled over 1.2 million revenue and non-revenue miles.
Since then, the city has been successful in applying for several grants to expand their electric fleet. With monies received from both the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and VW Settlement program, Denver was able to purchase 17 40-foot battery-electric buses, along with charging equipment and infrastructure. The new buses are set to begin service in early 2023.
RTD is looking to the future. With the city’s population expecting to grow approximately 31% by 2050, they continue to realize the health and climate benefits of battery-electric fleets. Their Reimagine RTD is currently developing a zero-emission bus strategy to help make “rational decisions about future bus deployments” in their region.
With this population growth in mind, Denver’s 80 x 50 Climate Action Plan targets 100% of public transportation vehicles to be carbon-free. A mile-high goal the mile-high city is determined to reach.
2. Portland, OR
Portland, Oregon has been saying “yes” to electric since 2002 when they introduced two diesel-electric hybrids to their fleets. By 2012, they brought in eight more. However, with the opportunity to transition their fleets to fully electric, they said “yes” again.
Trimet, Portland’s public transportation company, is now testing buses as they work towards an all-alternative fuel bus fleet. Meaning, they are not committing to a single manufacturer as they carefully select technologies that meet their region’s needs.
For example, in 2019 Trimet introduced the city’s first five short-range battery-electric buses. By the end of the first two years, the buses saved 680,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Check out our previous article where we report more about the technology. Since then, in 2021, five long-range battery-electric buses entered their fleet.
Meanwhile, instead of just eliminating their diesel fleet entirely, in 2022, Trimet began converting the components of those buses with electric motors and long-range batteries. Essentially making those buses all-electric. In other electric-transportation research, they are studying whether or not a hydrogen fuel-cell electric bus is a viable option for the fleet.
We can’t wait to follow their studies as they continue to test these, and other, alternatives.
3. Austin, TX
In February of 2020, Capital Metro announced the launch of the first two of 80 electric buses into their fleet by 2035. How many more have they added to their fleet in two years?
Today, Capital Metro upped their battery-electric bus fleet to a dozen currently in operation. Furthermore, the originally reported 80 electric buses the city originally forecasted? Well, CapMetro’s board approved the purchase of over 200 more electric buses – “the largest procurement of electric vehicles in the country!”
In order to fully electrify the transit fleet by 2035, CapMetro is working closely with the local municipally-owned utility, Austin Energy. The transit system will use both depot charging and on-route charging. This entails placing charging stations at transit centers, park-and-ride locations, and major transfer points. Austin Energy commits the power grid will be ready where and when the growing number of battery buses will be deployed.
As Austin takes the lead of largest procurement of electric buses in the country, other cities will learn from the infrastructure deployment as well. You can even track the electric bus routes live to catch a ride yourself in their interactive app!
4. Toronto, ON
We have to be honest. We were not sure how much change we would report on when we first reviewed our original post from 2020. At that time the city already had 60 electric buses on order. How much change could there possibly be in a short two years? That is a lot of buses! Well, we hope these facts enlighten your day.
The city’s metro, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), as part of their Green Initiatives, commits to a 100% zero emissions fleet by 2040. To foster reaching that goal, in 2021, the TTC committed to procure 300 more electric buses.
What’s more for the residents of cities operating on battery-electric buses, the TTC points out, is that during power outages, or emergency events, there is potential for the buses to serve as mobile power plants. For many cities across the world, this is an electric-battery benefit that will go well beyond a bus ride to the grocery story. Rather, they offer an opportunity to also save lives.
5. New York, NY
New York, New York has one of the largest public transportation bus fleets in the world. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) operates more than 6,000 buses within its region. To transition their fleet to fully-electric is going to cost the city a lot of money, and a lot of effort!
It is an effort the MTA is willing to make as they committed to going fully electric by 2040. However, this transition is happening slower than many would like to see. New York City has a robust power grid that must now begin to handle EVs of all capacity. The MTA alone may require 300 electric buses to be charged at a time in depots. So while it may seem that the city is lagging in replacing diesel with electric buses, they’ll first need to roll-out a stable electric supply and ample charging infrastructure plan.
Going back to 2020, the MTA had 15 all-electric articulated buses in operation. One year later, they announced the addition of 60 more electric buses, bringing the total to 75. However, the MTA pledged to purchase only electric buses by 2029 as New York State budgeted $1.1 Billion towards the purchase of 500 more, as part of the 2020-2024 capital plan.
As years progress, we’ll be watching the progress New York City makes in achieving its carbon neutrality goals.
How many battery-electric buses does your city have?
In North America, the battery-electric bus revolution is far more widespread than the five we’ve been following. Some cities have actually progressed to operating fully electric, like California’s Antelope Valley District. Meanwhile, National Parks, like Zion, have been awarded grants to replace their shuttle fleets with new, battery-electric vehicles. As more infrastructure is built, we can expect electric fleets to expand to even the most remote locations.
The Federal Transit Administration tracks public transportation bus fleets across the country. According to their most recent report, in 2020, there were 1,268 electric buses actively in operation at transit agencies across the U.S. We look forward to their next release as we know, from our own research alone, this number is far larger than this reporting.
Finally, to see if your city is transitioning its fleet, check-in with the Federal Transit Administration’s 2020 Data Tables to start. We are excited to post an update to this article when the FTA publishes an updated report.
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