The 5 Ws of electric buses

Photo Credit: Luke Antoniou/Intelligent Transport

Ask any journalist, researcher, crime investigator or just any good storyteller, and they’ll tell ya: who, what, when, where, why (& how) must be answered to get a full understanding of an issue. Electric buses have found a few routes in Oregon for travelers to enjoy and more are coming. So here are Oregon Environmental Council’s 5 Ws of E-buses. 

Why do they matter and who are they for?
Buses carry a lot of people in a space-efficient and energy-efficient way, making them critical to a sustainable, equitable transportation system. Buses fueled by electricity are even better because they are nearly pollution-free.  When electric buses replace diesel buses, communities living near roads breathe easier because electric buses produce no tailpipe emissions. This means reduced exposure to smog, soot and air toxics.

How do they help the climate?
Electric buses are far better than diesel buses when it comes to protecting the climate. In Oregon, where about 50% of electricity is currently produced using renewable sources, the carbon intensity of electricity is about a third of diesel fuel. Due to strong laws Oregon’s electricity grid is shifting toward more and more renewable sources, and that means that an electric bus bought today, unlike a diesel bus, will have lower and lower global warming emissions over time. 

But what about the batteries?
People often worry about the environmental impact of batteries used in electric vehicles. This is a concern with all the batteries we use in modern life. Research and advocacy on making the mining, processing, re-use and recycling of batteries cleaner, safer and more ethical is important. However, on balance, electric vehicles are much cleaner than their fossil-fueled counterparts over their lifecycle. 

What does it cost?
Electric buses are 1.5 to 2 times more expensive than diesel buses up front, but they cost less in the long term because of savings on fuel and maintenance. Some grants are available to help transit agencies with the extra initial cost; credits from Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program can be used; and transit agencies are also working with utilities to figure out ways to finance the initial purchase.

Where are electric transit buses operating now?
Cities all over the world are starting, expanding or even finalizing the electrification of their transit bus fleets. In Oregon, several transit agencies are testing electric buses to see how they perform in real life. The TriMet transit agency serving much of the Portland area and Lane Transit District in Lane County are each running five electric buses, and plan to purchase more in the future. Wilsonville SMART is running two electric buses.

When will we see more!?
Oregon Environmental Council will continue to work with TriMet and other transit agencies in Oregon to electrify their fleets over time. Electric buses are clearly the future, and given the clear benefits, we think it’s high time to accelerate toward full electrification.

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1 Reply to "The 5 Ws of electric buses"

  • danwat1234
    August 19, 2019 (10:55 pm)

    How is the center of gravity of the bus affected? Large battery pack on the roof have to be careful when cornering.