California Revs Up Emissions Reductions, Requires All New Buses to Be Electric by 2029

Statement by Jimmy O’Dea, Senior Vehicles Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Dec 14, 2018

 OAKLAND, Calif. (December 14, 2018)—Today, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted unanimously to require all new transit buses in the state be battery or fuel cell electric beginning in 2029. It is the first statewide policy in the country that requires full electrification of a vehicle class. Based on typical bus turnover rates, this standard will ensure nearly 14,000 buses on California roads will be zero-emission by 2040.

California can expect to reduce its carbon emissions by 1 million metric tons in 2040 because of this new standard. The heavy-duty transportation sector disproportionately contributes 20 percent of the state’s transportation-related global warming emissions despite representing just 7 percent of vehicles in the state.

Requiring buses to switch to battery or fuel cell technologies also means improvements in air quality. Trucks and buses are the state’s single largest source of nitrogen oxides, a precursor to ozone pollution, and a major source of particulate matter pollution.

Below is a statement by Jimmy O’Dea, a senior vehicles analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. O’Dea is a clean vehicle, freight technology and transportation policy expert.

“This is the biggest public transportation breakthrough since we switched from trolleys to diesel buses a century ago. Bus riders, bus drivers and anyone who has gulped the exhaust from a passing truck or bus knows we must do something about these vehicles. Electrifying them is a one-two punch: we reduce carbon emissions that worsen climate change and we clean up the air we breathe.

“The benefits of this decision go beyond addressing climate change and reducing air pollutants. The statewide purchasing requirement sends a strong market signal to manufacturers around the world. Four of the five major U.S. bus manufacturers are in California, meaning the rule also will benefit local jobseekers.

“California must keep leading the way on reducing transportation-related carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, because every fraction of a degree of warming we avoid matters. Plug-in electric car sales in the United States surpassed 1 million this fall. Trucks and buses are the next big opportunity for electric vehicles. If we can successfully electrify transit buses, there is nothing stopping us from making school buses, delivery trucks and garbage trucks zero-emission, too.”

O’Dea’s reports and analyses include “Delivering Opportunity: How Electric Buses and Trucks Can Create Jobs and Improve Public Health in California,” and most recently, “The Promises and Limits of Biomethane as a Transportation Fuel.” His scientific research previously focused on new materials for hydrogen fuel cells.