What will mass transit look like in the future? Earlier this year, California announced an ambitious plan to reduce emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, setting the state on a path to achieving 80-percent reduction by 2050. Although satisfying these goals will require contributions from all sectors of the economy, the transition to zero- and near-zero emission vehicles will play an outsized role — particularly when it comes to mass transit.
It’s not that far afield to assume that by 2030, transit agencies will be moving right along with removing diesel buses from our streets and replacing them with electric buses. And by 2050, we might even see the last fossil-fueled bus put firmly to bed. Renewable energy will be in its heyday, with utilities generating power from solar, wind and hydroelectric sources. Bus yards would derive energy from solar parking canopies, storing energy in batteries and recharging during peak utility hours, while drawing from the power grid during the off-peak. Excess power could even be sold back to the utility for community use.
But how we do get there? Delivering on the promise of cleaner, more sustainable transit means bringing together stakeholders across the spectrum of transportation — automakers, local and municipal governments and public transit agencies. But the most important stakeholder will be each community’s local utility company.
Utilities, Public Transit Must Collaborate
According to the 2018 Strategic Directions: Smart Cities & Utilities Report survey, more than half of smart services providers (57 percent) point to the need for charging infrastructure — both depot and on-route — as the most prohibitive barrier to large-scale electric fleet adoption. The issue ranked second for government and municipality respondents, who named the cost of fleet investment as their No. 1 concern.
Public transit agencies must work with utility companies to develop the charging infrastructure necessary to bring this plan to life. Proterra, a leader in the design and manufacture of zeroemission heavy-duty vehicles, can play an important role in fostering this collaboration by partnering with transit agencies to develop an efficient energy plan. For example, a transit agency may be considering the purchase of 25 electric buses with a plan to charge the vehicles at night, when they are off-duty.
The agency would provide Proterra with the duty cycle — the number of miles, hours and days each bus runs its routes — for each individual bus. Proterra would determine the fleet’s power needs and build a load profile to share with the transit agency’s utility company. Armed with this information, the utility would be able to assess its current infrastructure to determine its ability to support the added load and, if necessary, develop additional infrastructure.
Because the utility was brought on board as a partner early in the process, they are aware of potential infrastructure needs — not just for today’s 25 buses, but for future growth.
Committed to the Vision
Although the utopia of fully electrified transportation might sound far-fetched, increasing electrification isn’t a fad but rather a reflection of deep market change around the globe. And utilities appear to be on board: To date, three major California utilities — Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Pacific Gas and Electric — have submitted more than $1 billion in proposals to electrify the state’s transportation sector.
These proposals are multifaceted and involve a number of programs – from working with automakers to introduce heavy-duty EVs to broadening existing EV charging networks with a call for more than 10,000 new charging stations across the state. They are taking action now, with 69 percent of utilities planning, researching or considering EV managed charging programs, to plan for future growth and infrastructure needs over the next 10 to 20 years.
As electric buses continue to gain traction, we have the opportunity to begin working towards this shared vision of the future: to create a healthy, self-sustaining system; to promote a safer, cleaner environment and to keep our people and goods moving safely and efficiently across the landscape. But this future can only become reality if all
stakeholders — utilities in particular — step up to help drive and support the widespread adoption of EVs in mass transit.
This article was contributed by By Kent Leacock, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy for Proterra
Proterra is a leader in the design and manufacture of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles, enabling bus fleet operators to significantly reduce operating costs while delivering clean, quiet transportation to local communities across North America. With more than 550 vehicles sold to 70 different municipal, university, airport, federal and commercial transit agencies across the continent, Proterra is committed to providing state of the art, high-performance vehicles to meet today’s growing market demand. The company’s configurable Catalyst platform is capable of serving the full daily mileage needs of nearly every transit route on a single charge. With unmatched durability and energy efficiency based on rigorous U.S. certification testing, Proterra products are proudly designed, engineered and manufactured in America, with offices in Silicon Valley, South Carolina, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit: http://www.proterra.com and follow us on Twitter @Proterra_Inc.