California is continuing its push towards zero-emission vehicles with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voting on the Innovative Clean Transit measure this week. If approved, the proposed measure will set a firm date for all public transit agencies in the state to convert their fleets to 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2040.
The ICT is little more than a statewide implementation of the moves that many cities across the state are already making. Mayors representing 25% of the population of the state came out in support of the transition to 100% zero-emission buses and many cities have already locked in their commitment to sustainable transit ahead of the ICT.
“Transitioning to 100% zero-emission buses across California is good for our cities, good for our state, and good for the planet. California has always been at the forefront of environmental innovation. By converting our bus fleets to electric vehicles, we can improve our air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and fight back against rolling back environmental policies.” – San Francisco Mayor London Breed
We spoke with CalZEV member and Deputy Executive Director at the California Electric Transportation Coalition Hannah Goldsmith about the ICT and how it will help move the state towards its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.
The ICT Builds On Existing Commitments
Many of California’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Stockton have already committed to converting their fleets to zero-emission buses and have helped to pave the way for other agencies looking to convert their fleets. “There are many transit agencies that should be complemented for moving to zero-emission buses,” Hannah said. “Many of those that initially had fully electric or hydrogen buses and liked them.”
Pilot programs and early adopters have provided crucial information for other fleet managers to look to as they try to wrap their minds around the changes that come with a completely different powertrain. Fuel pumps at bus depots are gone and replace with new electric bus chargers at the depot or along routes. Fuel costs go away and are replaced by electricity bills that fluctuate based on spikes in demand and other new fees. These fluctuations have caused forward-thinking utilities like California’s Pacific Gas & Electric to propose new subscription models for fleet charging that would flatten out the ‘fuel cost’ profile of electricity for fleet managers.
Lower Emissions and a Lower Total Cost of Ownership
Seeing fleets like the Antelope Valley Transit Authority not only commit to a zero-emission fleet, but to do so before 2020, demonstrates not only how clean the buses are, but how the economics work as well. Hannah shared that CARB has analyzed the total cost of ownership (TCO) of electric buses and found that, “the TCO came out better in many areas than conventional buses,” Hannah said.
“One of the biggest expenses is the cost to install new infrastructure,” she said, and that’s something that can catch fleet managers by surprise if they haven’t managed fleets with electric vehicles before. Thankfully, the California Public Utilities Commission has provided a generous $738 million incentive package (PDF) for the state’s utilities to provide assistance with the installation of new EV charging infrastructure.
Hannah shared that the ICT is a natural build on what many cities and transit agencies are already doing. “There may be some transit agencies that will be reluctant to move,” Hannah said, and noted that the ICT would ensure that residents across the state would benefit from zero-emission buses in their cities. The ICT, “also helps to push them to take advantage of those funding programs,” that are available in California to support the transition to zero-emission transit buses.
The Low Carbon Fuel Standard
One of the key programs providing support for the transition to zero-emission transit vehicles is CARB’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard sets fuel-independent emission reduction standards, with a target of 10% reduction by 2020.
Fuel producers and importers that don’t meet the standard can purchase credits from low and zero-emission vehicle drivers and those funds are used to incentivize the purchase of more no- and low-emission vehicles. Hannah said that the program has been very successful in encouraging transit agencies to move to zero-emission vehicles in recent years.
The Cherry On Top
“Many of the transit bus makers, especially zero emissions, have chosen California to manufacture,” Hannah said. The decision comes as a special economic bonus for California as many new energy companies build out their factories and even completely new companies in California to produce the fleets of electric buses that will be required in the coming years. Manufacturers like BYD, Proterra, GreenPower Bus and Motiv have all established a presence in the state, bringing new clean energy jobs to the state.
The ICT may represent the obvious next step to those that are watching the transit industry closely, but it also has the potential to bring the lower cost, healthier, quieter promise of electric buses to millions more that might still not know that electric buses even exist.
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