California has yet again cemented themselves as a leader in the fight against climate change. Over the past few years they have enacted several forward thinking laws that have pushed their state to become a cleaner, more energy efficient location. California's Clean Air Agency has taken this even farther recently, by asking city transit agencies to make the change from fossil fuel driven buses to electric ones.
Starting as early as 2023, transit must replace as much as 25% of their buses with electric. The amount will raise to 50% by 2026, and by the end of the decade, no transit company will be able to buy a bus that runs on fossil fuels such as diesel and gas.
Many cities have already begun to make these changes voluntarily. There are currently over 100 emission free buses on roads around California as we speak. These buses were purchased voluntarily, with no government mandates pushing the change.
The new rule won't include all buses in California. The mandate is for public transit only. School buses and privately owned buses will not be part of the change—for now anyway.
These changes to California's law did not come quickly or easily. Public transit is an important part of the natural gas industry, and losing the 5th largest economy in the world's transit will hurt their bottom line. These companies aren't the only ones that pushed back—some transit companies were against the changes too.
Despite some who question the decision, the vote for accepting this mandate was unanimous. This may be in the hopes of stemming California's serious air quality issues. Several of California's cities have some of the worst air quality in the world, despite the many changes California has made to improve it.
The average transit bus can travel as much as 40,000 miles in a year, which is 4 times as much as the average car. It also consumes about 4 times as much gas per mile as the average car or truck. Combined, public transit is responsible for as much as 20% of the state’s transit related emissions, and this switch will remove as much as one million metric tons of carbon emissions from the air.
That's a huge amount for a relatively small change, and it could turn the tide for many smog choked cities around the state. Unfortunately, it doesn't come without a price. Emission free buses are significantly more expensive than traditional types. A normal, diesel powered bus costs about $500,000, a significant investment as it is. Cleaner burning natural gas buses costs $550,000 and electric buses can cost as much as $800,000.
While these initial costs are steep, they do cost less to run, and may pay for themselves over time. Until more of these buses are brought into daily use, it will be impossible to know for sure whether the buses are a good financial investment, even if there is no doubt they are a good investment for the future of our children, and for the environment.