Route to a greener future includes zero-emission buses
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 5 July 2016
Every day, passengers at Foothill Transit’s Pomona Transit Center see something unusual: battery-electric buses pausing at the station to charge between dropping off and picking up passengers. Since 2010, these buses have been moving passengers through the cities of Pomona and La Verne with no pollution and no fossil fuels. Foothill Transit is just one of many transit agencies throughout California making the transition to cleaner buses. California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), a key policy designed to prevent climate change, is creating real monetary value and helping to make zero-emission buses economically viable.
The LCFS calls for reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels 10 percent by 2020. Transit operators that use lower carbon fuels — in Foothill Transit’s case, electricity and natural gas — are able to generate credits and sell them in the market. At the current market value, the credits generate enough income to equal anywhere between 60 to 80% of the annual cost of the electricity required to power the Foothill Transit buses.
According to a 2016 American Lung Association study, the Los Angeles-Long Beach metro area still ranks No. 1 in ozone pollution nationally. The transportation sector is responsible for nearly 40% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, which create health impacts for all Californians.
While the LCFS was intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it’s also proving to be a major tool in the fight to improve air quality. Through the use of cleaner vehicles, transit districts have helped the state save $1.6 billion in potential public health impacts.
That’s why transit agencies statewide have been taking steps to shift to cleaner fleets. Foothill Transit’s fleet, serving 14 million customers in the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, will be 10% electric by 2017 and 100% electric by 2030. The electric buses are the first all-electric, heavy-duty public transit buses in the nation to utilize in-route fast-charging capability, enabling them to remain in service throughout the day without having to leave the route to be charged.
Policies like the LCFS have enabled California to successfully deploy over 100 zero-emission buses on the road. CALSTART has set a target of having 500 zero-emission buses operating statewide by 2020. The LCFS has reduced our dependency on the volatile petroleum market, avoiding the use of 6.6 billion gallons of petroleum and diversifying California’s fuel supply.
The LCFS is also helping support California’s ever-expanding clean energy economy and its base of more than 500,000 jobs. In part due to this policy and others, new electric bus manufacturing plants are popping up in places like Lancaster and the City of Industry. In addition, two existing bus manufacturers in Riverside are now building electric and fuel cell buses.
In order for the LCFS to continue to work as intended, it must be seen as a program with dependable, stable support in the California Legislature. That’s why nine major transit agencies as well as four bus builders and suppliers partners from all parts of the state are urging policymakers to strengthen and extend the LCFS beyond 2020.
Transit agencies serve the public good — last year, buses made 978 million trips in California, helping countless residents get to work, go to school, and come home to their loved ones. If transit agencies benefit from the LCFS, California communities benefit too.
Our state cannot afford to lose momentum promoting alternative fuels with the LCFS. It’s a critical policy needed to make very low- and zero-emission buses pencil out for California transit agencies.