China plans to lead the way in combating urban air pollution by investing heavily in electric buses to replace its current, gas-guzzling fleets. According to Bloomberg reports, close to half of all municipal buses will be electric by 2025 (more than 1.1 million vehicles), and approximately 99% of those buses will be in China. To put that number into perspective, less than 400,000 electric buses were on city roadways worldwide in 2017.
While private consumers are slow to adopt electric vehicles and the technology is still too expensive for most, municipal vehicles are a natural first step in moving away from fossil fuels. This is due in part to fixed routes, regular use so vehicles can pay for themselves and lower maintenance costs over the lifetime of the engine.
While China may be leading the charge in the long-term, American cities are getting involved on a smaller scale. Commuters in Alexandria, Virginia, are being allowed to ride an electric bus for free while the city tests out the vehicle for a week within its existing public transportation network. The Minnesota Valley Transport Authority is deploying an electric bus in Minneapolis to shuttle football fans to and from the Super Bowl. The bus’ manufacturer, Proterra, hopes to use the publicity as a chance to secure more vehicle contracts with transportation authorities. Elsewhere, Los Angeles and San Jose city officials are lobbying for state regulators to incentivize a shift towards electric municipal vehicles.
From small-scale tests to large, long-term plans, electric buses are a logical first option in the move away from fossil fuel vehicles. While skeptics are hesitant due to electric battery concerns (cold weather performance, for example), incorporating the battery-powered vehicles into municipal fleets remedies the urban pollution problem while we wait for commuter cars to catch up. What do you think of widespread electric buses in cities? Let us know in the comments below!