California on Friday became the first state to mandate a full shift to electric buses on public transit routes. Starting in 2029, mass transit agencies in California will only be allowed to buy buses that are fully electric under a rule adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
The agency said it expected that city bus fleets would be fully electric by 2040. The rule has been several years in the making and was naturally opposed by the gas industry.
However, it is going to be along way to get there as CARB currently counts only 153 electric buses in a state-wide fleet of 12,000 vehicles. Therefore, the rule that was adopted unanimously by all 16 board members, requires the state’s transit agencies to start updating their fleets well before 2029. Starting in 2023, a quarter of their new buses must be electric, and by 2026 this number will rise to half of all new buses. In the short-term, CARB reckons about a 1,000 zero emission buses to be deployed by 2020, based on the number of buses on order or that are otherwise planned for purchase by transit agencies.
The so called Innovative Clean Transit regulation is part of a statewide effort to reduce emissions from the transport sector, which accounts for 40 percent of climate-changing gas emissions and 80-90 percent of smog-forming pollutants.
“A zero-emission public bus fleet means cleaner air for all of us. It dramatically reduces tailpipe pollution from buses in low-income communities and provides multiple benefits especially for transit-dependent riders,” CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said.
CARB expects full implementation of the regulation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 million metric tons from 2020 to 2050 – the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off the road. Also it will reduce harmful tailpipe emissions (nitrogen oxides and particulate matter) by about 7,000 tons and 40 tons respectively during that same 30-year period.
The state has 200 public transit agencies. Eight of the 10 largest transit agencies in California are already operating zero-emission buses, including battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.