Climate Activism through Bus Fleet Electrification

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Climate Activism through Electrification

The past year has demonstrated that the existential threat of climate change can no longer be put off or not taken seriously. Climate change is happening now and each day that people, cities, and governments refuse to act, the planet moves closer towards irreparable ecological destruction.

Despite myriad technological advancements in fields of medicine, telecommunications, and production, so many of the same problems continue to plague us decade after decade. It is clear that climate change is not only further harmed but also driven by many transportation systems. Transportation – which includes (xxx) – has become one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide. (insert stat here) Sustainable transportation is the key to unlocking climate action. This is achieved with a multipronged and comprehensive approach. One important action is to electrify transportation fleets. Electrification is a powerful tool that reduces GHG emissions and in doing so, improves air quality. Electrification is linked to reduced noise pollution and can immediately cut harmful pollution. Electric vehicles can function in Low Emission or Zero Emission Zones and can provide efficient transportation without harmful emissions associated with diesel or petrol fueled vehicles. Electrification is key to reaching climate goals. 

Recently, electrification technology has improved, making it cheaper and more efficient. With longer battery life, technology is easier to scale. The total cost of ownership has dropped and continues to drop, making them electric buses financially competitive with diesel and gas powered buses.

However, electrification is not without challenges. Beyond the initial high upfront costs, electrification requires charging infrastructure. This has to be considered in conjunction with the electrical grid so as not to overuse it and to make sure that charging stations are in useful and helpful locations. While total cost of ownership is competitive with diesel buses, there are still high upfront costs required making funding and financing models challenges. When charging and routes are optimized, costs of electric buses are significantly lowered. With technology advancements and increased demand for sustainability, electrification is poised to grow significantly over the next decade. 

Buses move people. Worldwide, more people travel by buses than any other form of transportation – meaning the electrification of this mode can greatly impact people’s quality of life while also addressing climate change. Battery powered buses (BEBs) are fully electric buses with battery-powered electric motor systems. These buses have been most commonly used in China but their popularity is increasing with technology improvements and competitive pricing. This week ITDP has published a guide to Electrifying Bus Fleets, From Santiago to Shenzhen: How Electric Buses are Moving Cities.

This guide was designed for city officials and provides an overview of the actions needed to take to electrify a fleet. With emphasis on BEBs, this guide provides useful information on the electrification process from funding and finance models to operations and maintenance, including charging infrastructure. Along with information on pilots, this guide can be a manual to guide cities towards sustainable transportation models.

Electrified vehicles offer two massive benefits: improved air quality and climate advocacy. Climate Week provides an opportunity to reflect on our collective action and push our leaders to do more to keep our planet safe. 

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