tech

Using electric buses in climate fight faces hurdles, report finds

12 Comments
By Ellen Wulfhorst

Electric buses could play a key role in combating climate change, but U.S. cities testing them have met hurdles that need fixing before the technology is widely employed to slow global warming, a report shows.

Buses tested in a handful of U.S. locales had trouble with battery life, inadequate range and sensitivity to extreme heat, according to the U.S.-based report.

The research was compiled by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, a public interest group, the nonprofit Environment America Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group, a clean energy organization.

Battery-powered electric buses eliminate diesel exhaust emissions and pollution and emit far fewer greenhouses gasses that contribute to global warming than do diesel and natural gas-powered buses, proponents say.

Transportation is the nation's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for almost one-third of emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

But the emerging electric bus technology is not without its pitfalls, said the report which looked at six U.S. test locations.

Among them, Chicago Transit Authority's two electric buses were able to handle cold weather, and the agency plans full-fleet electrification by 2040, it said.

But buses tested in 2018 in Albuquerque, New Mexico had shorter-than-expected battery life, inadequate range and a sensitivity to extreme heat, it said.

"We obviously want to see more electric buses on the road, but we're not going to say places that have tested them have had 100% success rates with no challenges," said Matthew Casale, a transportation specialist with the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

"Places that are thinking about making a change now can be more informed about what they are facing."

While some U.S. communities are looking to replace diesel buses, many transit agencies are cautious out of concerns that electric vehicles have limited range and are unproven on a mass scale.

A report released in May by the World Resources Institute, a global research organization, found cities face technological, financial and institutional barriers to electrifying bus fleets.

Cities do not know enough about the buses' limitations and maintenance, and transit agencies may be unwilling to pay for buses that are more costly up front but cheaper to operate than conventional buses, WRI said.

"Critics out there say the buses are not ready for prime time because of technology hurdles or cost hurdles or education hurdles," Casale said.

"At the end of the day, electric buses really provide significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and exposure to harmful pollutants," he said. "It's certainly something worth pursuing."

About half of America's nearly 70,000 transit buses and 95% of its school buses run on diesel, the report said.

Among major cities, New York City has announced plans to convert public buses to an all-electric fleet by 2040.

Most of the world's electric buses are operating in China, according to the WRI.

© Thomson Reuters Foundation

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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Modern diesels are actually very clean, efficient, reliable and cost effective.

Trying to reinvent the wheel here.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Thats true. Allot of these green technologies have been found to be not so green after all. For example Solar Farms take up lots of land that displaces allot of the native species. The game changer technology is just not there yet; they are working and tweaking technologies that do not have the COP that fossil fuels can deliver. Not saying give up on it, and the green revolution is helping to push it, but its not there yet when it comes to heavy lift transportation.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Burning BushToday  07:31 am JST

Modern diesels are actually very clean, efficient, reliable and cost effective.

N02 and particulate emissions from diesels are far higher than petrol engines. Diesels have improved a lot of the last few decades but they are far from 'very clean'. It took 2 minutes searching for stats. Both the outdated testing prcedures and tax breaks from EU governments ensured dirty diesels could prosper until the VW scandal. Since then the EU has run away from it and is producing hybrids and EVs. Diesel is dead for passenger cars.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Trolleybuses have existed since the 1920's at least, are proven technology and modern vehicles can run off wire for lengthy distances. Definitely trying to reinvent the wheel.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Yesterday we read an article about the three scientists who got Nobel Prizes for their developing lithium batteries.

Today we read about lithium batteries being put to use on buses.

I see a trend.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Electric buses could play a key role in combating climate change

I would like to see a rational base for that claim. Not holding my breath to see that in the propaganda media, though.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Electric buses are better. There's been too much dependence on petroleum and too many lives lost for it. Time for cleaner energy NOW.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Electric buses are better. There's been too much dependence on petroleum and too many lives lost for it. Time for cleaner energy NOW.

Electric buses don't equal cleaner energy. In fact, depending on the source of the electricity, they can actually be dirtier. Although they do move the pollution outside the city.

They also cause more pollution in the manufacturing and disposal of their batteries. And if, as the article says, the battery life is shorter than expected that means more replacements meaning more pollution.

To make them truly cleaner would first require powering them from overhead lines, which removes batteries and their problems from the equation. Then second, generating large quantities of electricity from the lowest polluting sources. Which in today's world means Gen IV reactors.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

There are already over 400,000 electric buses in operation. China is building over 9,000 every month. The rest of the world needs to catch up before China controls the entire market.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Starpunk

There's been too much dependence on petroleum and too many lives lost for it.

I would agree that there is too much dependence on petroleum. However, electric buses get their power from the grid, which is mainly supplied by coal. I fail to see how switching from petroleum (crude oil) to coal makes a difference. Both are fossil fuels.

We should research alternatve energies instead of pushing a move from crude oil to coal.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Biomass buses too. There are some in our previous city, Kobe.

Electric trucks and buses would be a big improvement. Battery technology is moving forward fast. Buses with solar panels built into the body recharging as they go in the daytime.

However, electric buses get their power from the grid, which is mainly supplied by coal. 

In Japan 30% of total power is from coal which runs 24/7 and overnight there's a big waste factor because they run the generators at a constant speed regardless of the demand.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

zichi:

Biomass buses too. There are some in our previous city, Kobe.

Fossil fuels are also biomass. Very old biomass. It is impossible to replace current fossil fuel consumption with newly grown biomass, since you would have to replace all existing food production with energy production.... and still would not come out with enough energy, seeing the vast amount of energy it takes to grow food in the first place.

So I do not see how "biomass" is a solution in any shape or form.

In Japan 30% of total power is from coal which runs 24/7

...and in Japan, another 37% comes from oil and gas, which are also fossil fuels. You forgot to mention that. Another 32% comes from geothermal, hydro, and nuclear. Among which only nuclear would be a carbon neutral option with unlimited potential for expansion. Now please tell us you are against nuclear too!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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