A FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND regulation in the United States that sets a state-wide target for public transit agencies to gradually transition to 100 per cent zero-emission bus fleets by 2040, has been approved by the California Air Resources Board, recently.

BYD's Lancaster, California, USA, facility has the capacity to produce 1,500 buses and is keen to accelerate this state-wide e-bus transition.

"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.

"Putting more zero-emission buses on our roads will also reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases, and provides cost savings for transit agencies in the long run."

The Innovative Clean Transit regulation is part of a state-wide effort to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, which accounts for 40 per cent of climate-changing gas emissions and 80-90 per cent of smog-forming pollutants, it states. The transition to zero-emission technologies, where feasible, is essential to meeting California’s air quality and climate goals.


Full implementation of the adopted regulation is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 million metric tons from 2020 to 2050 – the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off the road, CARB confirms. And 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, it adds.

As long-time partners for clean air in California, the state’s 200 public transit agencies play a pivotal role in transitioning vehicle fleets away from fossil fuel-powered technologies to zero-emission alternatives. Eight of the 10 largest transit agencies in the state are already operating zero-emission buses, including battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Transit agencies are particularly well suited for introducing these technologies. They operate largely in urban centres, where pollution and noise are of greater concern. Their buses drive in stop-and-go traffic where conventional internal combustion engines waste fuel while idling. And their fleets run out of central depots where charging infrastructure can be installed and conveniently accessed, the organisation says.


ABOVE: Californian transit agencies currently deploying, or planning on deploying, zero-emission buses.


Deployment of zero-emission buses is expected to accelerate rapidly in the coming years – from 153 buses today to 1,000 by 2020, based on the number of buses on order or that are otherwise planned for purchase by transit agencies. Altogether, public transit agencies operate about 12,000 buses state wide, it says.

To successfully transition to an all zero-emission bus fleet by 2040, each transit agency will submit a rollout plan under the regulation demonstrating how it plans to purchase clean buses, build out necessary infrastructure and train the required workforce. The rollout plans are due in 2020 for large transit agencies and in 2023 for small agencies.

Agencies will then follow a phased schedule from 2023 until 2029, by which date 100 per cent of annual new bus purchases will be zero-emission. To encourage early action, the zero-emission purchase requirement would not start until 2025 if a minimum number of zero-emission bus purchases are made by the end of 2021.

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CARB will continue to work with transit agencies on a successful transition and conduct regular reviews of progress.

Benefits of the regulation are many, CARB states:

- Transit-dependent riders, especially in disadvantaged and low-income communities, will breathe cleaner air and enjoy quieter rides.

- Transit agencies are expected to save USD$1.5 billion in maintenance, fuel and other costs by 2050 after the full buildout of infrastructure.

- The deployment of zero-emission buses in California will bring new workforce training and employment opportunities including high-quality manufacturing jobs to communities across the state.

Electrifying the heavy-duty transportation sector is supported by a range of government policies and programs. Public funding for zero-emission vehicles and related charging infrastructure is administered by CARB, the California State Transportation Agency, Caltrans, the California Energy Commission, and local agencies.

In addition, utilities are supporting this transition with new electricity rate designs and investments in charging infrastructure. The Department of General Services is also streamlining bus purchases through a single state-wide zero-emission bus purchase contract.



Chinese electric bus manufacturer commended the CARB directive, stating: "We stand ready to deliver and make the transition to zero emission buses a reality," said BYD president Stella Li.

"Our Lancaster (California) facility has the capacity to produce 1,500 buses and we have partnered with Generate Capital to make a leasing program available to accelerate this transition."

According to BYD, the company has delivered 79 all battery-electric, zero-emission buses to various Californian transit authorities, adding that there’s another 122 orders to come. 

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