California’s All-Electric Plan

In just over 20 years, transit buses all over California could be completely powered by zero-emissions tech, such as fuel cells or batteries. That’s the goal set last year by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The board approved a rule that states when new buses are purchased by Californian transit agencies, requirements will intensify to ensure that they are acquiring zero-emissions models.

Fossil fuels forbidden

Beginning in 2023, one in four transit buses purchased will be required to be zero emissions. By 2019, every single new bus will need to meet that standard. Essentially, after the year 2029, transit agencies in California will be forbidden from purchasing buses power by fossil fuels, such as natural gas and diesel.

A number of Californian cities have already been purchasing, or intending to purchase, electric buses. These cities include Pomona, Stockton, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. California is a taking big steps to put its money where its mouth is by providing transit agencies with sources of finance to help acquire zero-emissions buses. Cities will also save on expenses by going electric, reducing their diesel fuel costs.

Zero-emissions fleet promise

CARB has said that 50 transit agencies have already purchased zero-emissions buses, and 16 agencies have promised to have a zero-emissions fleet in place. As of December last year, there were 132 zero-emissions buses on the roads. By the year 2040, that number will increase to 14,000.

The rule will also provide a significant boost to such firms as BYD and Proterra, firms that manufacture electric buses. Proterra raised finance from a number of sources, including Daimier, to increase its capacity to manufacture.

Sufficient finance

California’s small transit agencies will probably struggle to make the transition to electric buses. The state does have a sufficient number of funding sources, however, such as from the gas tax, and cap and trade, to provide subsidiaries for the shift and enable smaller agencies to be excluded from the new rule until the year 2016. Small agencies can ask for exemptions from the purchase standard if they meet certain criteria.

Even electric buses cost more than diesel. However, EV buses are becoming less costly as the prices of batteries fall. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that 80 per cent of transit buses around the world will be electric by the year 2040.

Small players leading the charge

Climate policies set by the state of California often influence the actions of other countries and states. Kicking off the electric bus market in California could help to increase the markets for electric cargo handling vehicles, delivery vans, and heavy-duty trucks. EV truck markets are only just emerging and small players are leading that growth.

To fulfil its goals, California will need to rid transportation from curb emissions rapidly. The state’s greenhouse gas emissions can count transportation as its primary contributor, and those emissions have been increasing. CARB states that the new policy will cut greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of some 19 mln metric tons of carbon dioxide from 2020 to 2050.