Testimony In Favor Of Electric Buses to the Senate Select Committee on NJ Transit

Released by: Environment New Jersey

The future is now for NJ Transit to commit to electrify their bus fleet over the next two decades. Dirty diesel buses, especially running through our cities and polluting our air and climate, need to be phased out by 2040. NJ Transit should join other major transit agencies to make the commitment to electrification. The Camden electrification pilot is a good start, but NJ Transit needs to aggressively ramp up electric buses in our cities in the early 2020s and to work to electrify all new bus purchases by the end of the next decade.

Battery-powered electric buses can reduce the environmental and health threats posed by diesel buses while also providing a reliable and cost-effective option for cities and school districts. Advances in electric bus technology and a rapid decline in battery costs over recent years have made electric buses an increasingly viable option for many transit agencies.

There are now more than 500 electric buses on America’s streets and thousands more worldwide,[1] with more hitting the streets every day. Radical improvements to electric bus technology and a rapid decline in upfront costs are resolving many of the earlier problems with these vehicles, and a growing number of manufacturers are producing high-quality, increasingly affordable electric transit buses.

We recently released a new report called Electric Buses in America: Lessons from Cities Pioneering Clean Transportation, which profiles six case studies of electric bus rollouts from across the country. These case studies provide valuable lessons on how to implement electric bus adoption, what challenges to expect, and how to begin to overcome those challenges. That report can be found on our website at www.environmentnewjerseycenter.org

The experience of six early adopters of electric buses illustrates the challenges that agencies have faced, as well as the benefits many have received from their electric bus pilots. To speed up the rollout of electric buses and ensure that cities see the benefits of these vehicles, state and city officials should commit to a transition to electric buses on a specific timeline and create favorable utility rate structures for transit agencies that include reduced off-peak energy rates and limited demand charges. 

Electric buses deliver numerous benefits to the communities they serve.

 

  • By eliminating diesel exhaust emissions, particulate pollution and pollutants that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, they improve the air quality in our communities.[2]
  • They produce significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than diesel, diesel hybrid and natural gas-powered buses. Replacing all of the country’s diesel-powered transit buses with electric buses could eliminate more than 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.[3]
  • Electric buses can deliver financial benefits, including substantially reduced maintenance costs and, in places where utility rate policies are favorable, reduced fuel costs.
  • By reducing air pollution, electric buses can also deliver significant societal benefits, including avoided healthcare expenses resulting from cleaner air.

Electric buses have often performed well in early pilots, and have often been cheaper to fuel and maintain than their diesel counterparts. early adopters have experienced a set of technological and economic challenges that have already informed their current electric bus procurement.

 

 

  • Seneca, SC. In 2014, Seneca became the first city in the world to launch an all-electric bus fleet.[4] The buses have outperformed their diesel equivalents in fuel and maintenance costs and exceeded expectations regarding charging time, range and battery life. Seneca views its electric buses as a successful, scalable model of full-fleet electrification.[5]
  • Chicago, IL. The Chicago Transit Authority’s rollout of two electric buses in 2014 was one of the first major tests of electric bus technology in a cold winter climate. The vehicles have performed well, have had no difficulty with extreme temperatures, and have saved the CTA more than $24,000 each year in fuel costs and $30,000 each year in maintenance costs.[6] The agency is currently moving forward with its commitment to full-fleet electrification by 2040.[7]
  • King County, WA. King County Metro Transit has been testing electric buses since 2016. The buses have performed well in a range of weather conditions, but with occasional problems, including issues with battery life and range. Per-mile fuel costs have been higher than for diesel due in part to high electricity demand charges. Taking into account other factors, such as environmental benefits, the agency nonetheless regards its electric buses as providing a good return on investment and plans a large-scale rollout in the coming years.[8]
  • Albuquerque, NM. Safety and durability issues with its electric buses, as well as subpar battery life, inadequate range and sensitivity to extreme heat, contributed to Albuquerque’s electric bus tests in 2018 ending in disappointment. Having incorporated safeguards into its contract with the manufacturers to ensure it would lose no money in the event of failure, the city cancelled the contract and returned its buses.[9] In August 2019, however, the city announced its intention to buy five new 40-foot electric buses.[10]

PUBLIC HEALTH:

There is no established safe level of exposure to diesel exhaust for children.[11] Research has shown that exposure to hydrocarbons from diesel exhaust in early childhood increases the likelihood of developing asthma.[12] In 2013, researchers looked at the impact of diesel exhaust particles on children in Cincinnati and concluded that diesel exhaust made the children more susceptible to asthma by turning off certain genes.[13] A 2017 Rutgers University study on asthmatic children living near the Port of New York/New Jersey with heavy diesel truck traffic found that greater exposure to carbon soot coincided with markers for lung inflammation.[14]

By limiting emissions of diesel pollution in our city neighborhoods and near schools, electric buses can reduce health risks from air pollution and contribute to healthier communities.  

By reducing the amount of harmful pollutants in the air, electric buses also create savings in health care costs.[15] The Chicago Transit Authority, for instance, estimates that a single electric bus saves the city nearly $55,000 every year in avoided healthcare expenses resulting from cleaner air.[16] A study conducted by Columbia University for MTA-New York City Transit calculated that electric buses reduced particulate matter emissions by 97.5% compared with diesel buses, producing a healthcare cost savings of approximately $150,000 per bus per year.[17]

Buses are an ESPECIALLY large contributor to criteria pollutants, especially PM2.5 - and that impacts public health.  ChargEVC is currently researching the emission implications of bus electrification, and we have discovered that this particular electrification segment creates a huge shift in not just how much air pollution is generated, but WHERE it is generated.  And we can quantify those differences, especially for PM2.5.  For example, to put a number on it, the new EPA data I am using quantifies the public health impact of a ton of of PM2.5 ON A ROADWAY (i.e. from a bus) at $118,985/ton.  By comparison, the economic impact of that same ton AT A POWERPLANT is $30,078/ton.  Roadway emissions are almost FOUR TIMES more harmful that equivalent pollution at a generation site.  So we get a DOUBLE benefit by electrifying buses - it reduces the absolute amount of pollutants that are especially harmful to public health, AND we shift those emissions to areas where they have less impact.

 

CLIMATE IMPACTS:

A 2018 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that electric buses produce significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than diesel, diesel hybrid and natural gas-powered buses over their entire life cycle, including the process of generating the electricity that powers them, and that there are benefits across the country, even in places where the electric grid is carbon intensive.[18] Buses charged on California’s clean electric grid, for example, had 70 percent lower life cycle emissions than diesel or natural gas buses, but the study found that electric buses consistently produce lower emissions than both diesel and natural gas-powered buses in every area of the country.[19] Over its entire lifecycle, an electric bus charged with the national electricity mix produces less than half of the carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) emissions per mile as are produced by natural gas or diesel-hybrid buses.[20]

OPERATIONAL COST

An average diesel transit bus today costs around $500,000, compared to $750,000 for an electric bus.[21] Despite these higher upfront costs, electric buses are often a cost-efficient alternative, producing major savings over the course of their lifetime in significantly lower operating costs from reduced spending on maintenance and fuel, while also providing greater predictability in costs due to the relative stability of electricity prices compared to fossil fuel prices.

Electric bus manufacturers tout the economic benefits of their products to transit agencies and school districts. New Flyer says that its natural gas-powered buses start at around $450,000 while their electric version starts at $700,000.[22] Over the lifetime of the bus, however, the company estimates the electric bus saves $400,000 in fuel expenses and $125,000 in averted maintenance costs, making up for the higher upfront cost.[23] Proterra says its standard electric transit bus costs $750,000, compared to $500,000 for a conventional diesel bus.[24] The company estimates that its electric buses offer fuel and maintenance savings of up to $50,000 a year over fossil fuel-powered buses, meaning transit agencies can recoup the extra cost in around five years (depending on the bus’s purchase price and operational cost variables).

 

ELECTRIC BUSES ON THE MARKET NOW:

The electric bus market in the United States has expanded dramatically over the last five years. There are a total of 528 fully electric, battery-driven buses currently in service across the country – an increase of 29 percent in 2018 alone.[25] Recent pledges by California, New York City and Seattle to transition to zero-emission fleets mean that 33 percent of all transit buses in the U.S. are now committed to go electric by 2045.[26] Roughly 4 percent of all new public transit bus sales in 2018 were electric buses, and 13 percent of the country’s transit agencies currently either have electric buses in their fleets or have them on order.[27] Taking into account those that have received grant funding for electric buses but not yet placed orders, upwards of 18 percent of U.S. transit agencies are now making moves toward electric buses.[28] Major players in the market include manufacturers Proterra, BYD Motors and NFI Group, the parent company of New Flyer of America.

 

OTHER TRANSIT AGENCY COMMITMENTS:

California has been at the forefront of moves towards bus electrification. In 2018, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved a statewide rule committing to shift to 100 percent all-electric transit buses by 2040.[29] Large transit agencies in the state will be required to purchase 25 percent electric buses starting in 2023, then 50 percent by 2026, with no new purchases of non-electric buses beginning in 2029.[30] In 2017 the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) committed to full-fleet electrification by 2030.[31] As of 2019, California has 210 electric buses in service and a backlog on order, bringing its total commitment to electric buses to around 450.[32]

Other transit agencies have also made large commitments to electrify their fleets:

 

  • New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the country’s largest transit network, has committed to an all-electric bus fleet by 2040.[33] In 2018, MTA began a pilot project operating 10 electric transit buses throughout the city, and in 2019 added 15 more to its fleet.[34]
  • The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in D.C. brought 14 all-electric buses online in 2018.[35]
  • The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) rolled out 25 electric buses in South Philadelphia in 2019 and has another 10 arriving in 2020 for deployment in 2021.[36]
  • The Port Authority of Allegheny County in the Pittsburgh area is testing two electric buses in 2019 ahead of an anticipated deployment of 25 vehicles.[37]
  • Minneapolis Metro Transit debuted its first electric bus in 2019 and aims to deploy another 200 over the next decade.[38]

 

IN SUMMARY… WHY ELECTRIC BUSES NOW?

Market penetration of new sales of electric transit buses has exceeded 10%, whereas light duty only recently surpassed 2%:

 

  • Vehicle powertrain technology is undergoing a transformational shift from legacy internal combustion engines to battery electric technology.  The transit bus market is ideally positioned to adopt electric powertrains given its unique operational characteristics, including high annual mileage at low fuel economy, predictable routes, depot-based fleets and operation in urban environments. 

 

  • Electric buses offer significant benefits, including:
    • Lower total cost of ownership.  Battery-electric vehicles have the lowest operational lifecycle compared to Diesel, CNG or Hybrid buses. High EV energy efficiency, low electricity rates and high annual vehicle mileage combine to create significant fuel savings. Additionally, electric buses have significantly fewer parts which dramatically reduce maintenance and operating costs.
    • Superior performance. An EV bus offers superior performance with nearly twice the horsepower of a standard diesel bus and five times better fuel efficiency.
    • Preferred Customer Experience.  Customers like the clean, modern look of our buses and the pollution-free experience of riding on them.  They are also quiet.
    • Environmental.  Electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions and decrease dependency on fossil fuels. Particulate matter from traditional transit buses contains numerous harmful gases and upwards of 40 cancer-causing substances.

 

  • In addition to the superior performance and benefits of an electric bus, there are also a number of trends impacting accelerated adoption:
    • Declining battery costs (less than $150 kWh now)
    • Tightening emission standards, at least at the state level; increased focus on environmental stewardship
    • Concern over air quality, local health effects, and climate change has really shifted the public's perception of what a modern transit bus needs to do.  Government agencies and regulators have also certainly taken notice and are moving in the direction of zero emissions transit. States and transit agencies across the country have adopted regulations and guidelines to adopt a 100% zero emission fleet. 
    • Urbanization – more and more people moving into cities (1M new people move to urban areas every week)
    • Health costs associated with fossil fuels
    • Government programs
      • FTA’s Low-No Emission Vehicle Program
      • State Voucher Programs (HVIP,  NYSERDA, MD’s Freedom Fleet Voucher Program, Chicago’s Drive Clean Truck Program)
      • VW Settlement funding. 

 

  • Communities across the United States struggle to address the harmful effects of air pollution. And disadvantaged communities in particular bear a disproportionate share of the air pollution burden. Exposure to particulate matter is linked to a range of severe health issues, including heart or lung disease, asthma and upper respiratory problems.  
  • Electric transit buses are currently serving our communities, airports (see Newark) and universities and are making a significant difference in addressing these and other issues.  Every time an electric bus with zero tailpipe emissions replaces a diesel bus, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by approximately 230,000 pounds and noise pollution is lessened.  These electric buses have displaced more than 50 million pounds of GHG emissions.

“Cutting vehicle emissions is critical to the fight against climate change,” said Senate Majority Leader Weinberg. “NJ Transit should be in the forefront of the conversion to a zero-emission electric bus fleet that is a priority for forward-looking mass transit agencies across the country. NJ Transit should certainly be able to match the MTA’s 2040 target, but if we’re going to do so, we need to make an increased commitment to electric bus purchases in our next Bus Fleet Plan for 2021 to 2027. This is a critical environmental health issue, particularly in our cities,” she concluded.

  

[1] EB Start, Electric Bus Industry Continues to Make Strides in 2018 (press release) 31 January 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190920232712/https://www.ebstart.co/press-.... “Electric Bus Market Size And Forecast, By Product (Purely Electric, Plug-in Hybrid), By Region (China, Europe, U.S.), And Segment Forecast, 2015 – 2025,” archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190606005806/https://www.hexaresearch.com/....

[2] Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, Electric School Bus Pilot Project Evaluation, 20 April 2018, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190920175702/https://www.mass.gov/files/doc..., 20 September 2019.

[3] Emissions savings calculated using Argonne National Laboratory’s Heavy-Duty Vehicle Emissions Calculator available at https://afleet-web.es.anl.gov/hdv-emissions-calculator.

[4] Ron Barnett, “S.C. city boasts first battery-operated bus fleet” USA Today, 27 February 2015.

[5] Keith Moody, General Manager, Clemson Area Transit, personal communication, 3 July 2019.

[6] Chicago Transit Authority, CTA Expands Electric Bus Fleet, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190920232250/https://www.transitchicago.co..., 15 July 2019

[7] Global Mass Transit, Chicago city approves plan to transition to 100 per cent electric bus fleet, 15 April 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190920234018/https://www.globalmasstransit....

[8] Rob Gannon, General Manager, King County Metro, Personal communications, 12 July 2019.

[9] Susan Orr, “IndyGo OK so far with electric buses, despite Albuquerque woes”, Indianapolis Business Journal, 21 November 2018; Martin Salazar, “ART project ‘a bit of a lemon,’ mayor says as problems mount”, Albuquerque Journal, 9 January 2018; Steve Knight, “Albuquerque’s Electric Buses Grounded After Malfunctions,” Government Technology, 2 November 2018, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190212085931/http://www.govtech.com:80/fs/t.... Elliott Zaagman, “Briefing: Albuquerque cancels deal with BYD over bus quality issues,” Tech Node, 19 November 2018, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190925014649/https://technode.com/2018/11/....

[10] Theresa Davis, “City Gets $2.7 Million Grant for Electric Buses,” Albuquerque Journal, 7 August 2019.

[11] C. Li et al., “School Bus Pollution And Changes in The Air Quality at Schools: A Case Study,” Journal of Environmental Monitoring, 11, 1037-1042, DOI: 10.1039/B819458K, 2009.

[12] K.J. Brunst, Y. Leung, P. Ryan, G. Hershey, L. Levin, H. Ji, G. LeMasters and S. Ho, 2013, Journal of Allergy And Clinical Immunology, “Forkhead box protein 3 (FOXP3) hypermethylation is associated with diesel exhaust exposure and risk for childhood asthma,” available at https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(12)01763-0/fulltext. 

[13] K.J. Brunst, Y. Leung, P. Ryan, G. Hershey, L. Levin, H. Ji, G. LeMasters and S. Ho, 2013, Journal of Allergy And Clinical Immunology, “Forkhead box protein 3 (FOXP3) hypermethylation is associated with diesel exhaust exposure and risk for childhood asthma,” available at https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(12)01763-0/fulltext.  

[14] N. Ji et al., 2017, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, “Personal Exposure to Black Carbon, Nitrogen Dioxide, and Chronic Psychosocial Stress: Impacts on Childhood Asthma Exacerbation in a Seaport-Adjacent Community,” available at http://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1164/ajrccm-conference.2017.195.1_MeetingAbstracts.A4803.

[15] İbrahim Aslan Reşitoğlu, Kemal Altinişik, and Ali Keskin, “The Pollutant Emissions from Diesel-engine Vehicles and Exhaust Aftertreatment Systems,” Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy, 17(1):15-27, January 2015.

[16] Chicago Transit Authority, Electric Bus, accessed 6 February 2018, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20180206213131/http://www.transitchicago.com....

[17] Judah Aber, Columbia University, Electric Bus Analysis for New York City Transit, May 2016.

[18] Jimmy O’Dea, Union of Concerned Scientists, Electric vs. Diesel vs. Natural Gas: Which Bus is Best for the Climate? 19 July 2018, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190920232331/https://blog.ucsusa.org/jimmy...? 27 July 2019.

[19] Jimmy O’Dea, Union of Concerned Scientists, Electric vs. Diesel vs. Natural Gas: Which Bus is Best for the Climate? 19 July 2018, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190920232331/https://blog.ucsusa.org/jimmy...? 27 July 2019.

[20] A natural gas bus produces 2,364 grams carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) per mile and a diesel-hybrid 2,212 grams CO2e per mile.  An electric bus, charged with the national electricity mix, produces 1,078 grams CO2e per mile. Jimmy O’Dea, Union of Concerned Scientists, Electric vs. Diesel vs. Natural Gas: Which Bus is Best for the Climate? 19 July 2018, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190920232331/https://blog.ucsusa.org/jimmy...? 27 July 2019.

[21] Michael Coren, “An Electric Bus Just Snagged A World Record by Driving 1,100 Miles on A Single Charge,” Quartz, 19 September 2017, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20180215170252/https://qz.com/1078326/an-ele....

[22] New Flyer of America, Country’s Largest Transit Bus System on Electric Buying Spree (press release), 17 October 2017, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20180215195104/https://www.newflyer.com/2017....

[23] New Flyer of America, Country’s Largest Transit Bus System on Electric Buying Spree (press release), 17 October 2017, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20180215195104/https://www.newflyer.com/2017....

[24] Michael Coren, “An Electric Bus Just Snagged A World Record by Driving 1,100 Miles on A Single Charge,” Quartz, 19 September 2017, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20180215170252/https://qz.com/1078326/an-ele....

[25] EB Start, Electric Bus Industry Continues to Make Strides in 2018 (press release) 31 January 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190920232712/https://www.ebstart.co/press-....

[26] EB Start, Electric Bus Industry Continues to Make Strides in 2018 (press release) 31 January 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190920232712/https://www.ebstart.co/press-....

[27] EB Start, Electric Bus Industry Continues to Make Strides in 2018 (press release) 31 January 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190920232712/https://www.ebstart.co/press-....

[28] EB Start, Electric Bus Industry Continues to Make Strides in 2018 (press release) 31 January 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190920232712/https://www.ebstart.co/press-....

[29] Sustainable Bus, US electric bus market to grow 18.5% yearly till 2024, 28 February 2019, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190711182449/https://www.sustainable-bus.co....

[30] Adele Peters, “California just decided to move to 100% electric city buses,” Fast Company, 14 December 2018, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190920232846/https://www.fastcompany.com/9....

[31] Joe Linton, “L.A. City Approves Full LADOT Transit Electrification by 2030”, StreetsBlog LA, 9 November 2017, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190808082601/https://la.streetsblog.org/201....

[32] EB Start, Electric Bus Industry Continues to Make Strides in 2018 (press release) 31 January 2019, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190920211007/https://www.ebstart.co/press-r..., 8 July 2019.

[33] Phil McKenna, “New York City Aims for All-Electric Bus Fleet by 2040” Inside Climate News, 26 Aril 2018, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190816110304/https://insideclimatenews.org/....

[34] New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, “MTA Testing 10 New, All-Electric Buses to Reduce Emissions & Modernize Public Transit Fleet”, 8 January 2018, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190701224524/http://www.mta.info/news/2018... CleanTechnica, New York City Adds to its Zero-Emission Fleet: 15 New Flyer, Low Floor 60-Foot Xcelsior CHARGE Battery-Electric Transit Buses (Press Release), 25 March 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190920233010/https://cleantechnica.com/201....

[35] Proterra, Washington D.C. Circulator Deploys Proterra® Battery-Electric Buses Across Nation's Capital (press release), 20 April 2018.

[36] Virginia Streva, “SEPTA releases 25 new electric buses for South Philly routes,” Philly Voice, 9 June 2019.

[37] Ed Blazina, “Port Authority getting first electric buses, considering fleet for Downtown-Oakland rapid transit,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 17 January 2019.

[38] Karen Zamora, "Minneapolis' Metro Transit to Add Electric Buses in 2019," Minneapolis Star Tribune, 26 September 2017; KSTP, “Metro Transit puts electric buses into service on new C-Line”, 8 June 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190609185929/https://kstp.com/news/metro-t....